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Joyful Nostalgia

Saturday, December 17, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

La La Land
Directed by
Damian Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend and others
Rating: * * * *

AT a time when audiences are being bludgeoned by special effect laden superhero movies or animated extravaganzas, Damian Chazelle come up with a movie that all heart, music, romance and old-style Hollywood. They just don’t make movies like this anymore, which is just one of the reasons why La La Land is so uplifting.

Right from that wonderful opening dance number in a LA traffic jam—a one shot sequence in which people get out of their cars and dance-- the film just reels you in and almost puts the stars back in your eyes. And a large part of the credit goes to the utterly brilliant leads, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, as two showbiz aspirants who fall in love.

Actress and playwright, Mia works in a café at the Warner Brothers studio, while auditioning and hoping to land a role; Sebastian is a jazz-loving pianist also waiting in the wings for a chance to be able to play his kind of music, not syrupy Christmas carols. These two are like thousands of beautiful people who flock to Los Angeles to try their luck in Hollywood, but this is a movie about the magic of romance, which includes heartbreak. After the standard ‘meet cute’ and the mandatory squabble, they fall in love over a series of beautiful song (the exuberant music score by Justin Hurwitz) and dance numbers, that make La La Land worth watching more than once.

Seb encourages Mia (the auditions she has to do are awful) to write something for herself to perform, while he puts aside his own purist tendencies to join a successful pop-jazz band with Keith (John Legend).  Then complications arise, and their relationship gets rocky, but even though Chazelle channels the best of Fifties musical traditions, how the plot proceeds is not clichéd, just a bit overstretched though. The conflicts seem believable, the emotions real--it is quite an achievement, the way Chazelle manages the quiet, internal moments with the splashiness of Hollywood glamour. The film is shot like a dream, and LA has never looked so stunning. Reminiscent of classic musicals like Singing In The Rain, An American In Paris, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and even the more recent Moulin Rouge, La La Land, is above all, a movie buff’s delight.

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