For Reel

La La Land (2016)
February 26, 2017, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Damien Chazelle
4.5 Stars
la-la-landThe Astaire/Rogers series of musicals are a good entry point for those uncommitted to the genre. Whereas many attempts at musicals in this century abandon human feeling in favor of artifice (Moulin Rouge), what those earlier films (and many like them) got right was that the song and dance was an extension of the emotional content, as if the performers themselves were acting out a mystical truth. In “A Lovely Night”, La La Land‘s best dance number, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone act out a scene familiar of the Astaire/Rogers classics (two people doing everything they can to convince themselves and each other that they’re not in love), where the musical number is not so much a “break” from plot development, rather a crucial development in the trajectory of the central romance. Just about all of the musical numbers function in the same way; save for the traffic jam number—that one is all spectacle, no feeling, albeit it’s worthwhile if only because director Damien Chazelle uses the opportunity to lay the groundwork in establishing the contrast between musical fancy and the doldrums of daily life in a big city. That is, if La La Land is seduced by the romance of an old musical, it is just as much a film about missed opportunities and selling out. The terrific final act finds harmony between Demy’s bittersweetness and the bombasity of Minnelli, and demonstrates Chazelle’s talent at pulling from different sources in order to create something that feels entirely its own.

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