Popcorn Picks Review: La La Land


Photo credit/ Elizabeth Carlson

Bethany Wade , Asst. Photography Editor

“La La Land” follows the story of Mia, an aspiring actress who works as a barista, who dreams of following in her aunt’s footsteps. When Mia stumbles upon the musical talents of Sebastian, a jazz pianist dreaming of his own club to help save the genre, it’s clear that their paths were destined for each other.

This is due in part to the fantastic pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The pair has acted together twice before in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad.” The duo’s chemistry is so electric, it’s hard to believe that the two aren’t actually together in real life.

Stone in particular shines in this movie, as she shows the emotional rawness of Mia when she begins to realize her dream is no longer realistic. In particular, the scene outside of Mia’s childhood home between her and Sebastian may be Stone’s strongest scene to date, rivaling her performance in “Birdman” from 2014.

However, Gosling’s dedication to the role of Sebastian cannot go unrecognized. Gosling intentionally learned how to play piano for the role. Watching his facial expressions as Sebastian follows his passion and plays the piano adds to the film.

The acting is one of the weaker parts of the entire movie. Though a musical film, most actors in musicals are strong triple threats – actors, singers and dancers – and this is not the case for Gosling and Stone.

For example, the dinner and argument scene felt very forced. It seemed like it was only there for plot reasons, and the actors seemed uncomfortable that they had to act out the scene.

The screenplay was also a weak spot for the film. The ending is a powerful and honest truth, that love and success do not always go hand-in-hand. The entire concept of the epilogue is genius, however, the rest of the script fails to stand out compared to other romance-based films.

What does need to be given credit is the cinematography. Bringing a technicolor rainbow to each and every scene, Linus Sandgren, head cinematographer, brought out the beauty in Mia and Sebastian’s love. From the opening number “Another Day of Sun,” and the random dance party on the 110 expressway, to the planetarium sequence, and even the sequence of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” Sandgren brings movie magic back to this film.

As “La La Land” is a musical, if the music is not strong enough, it can ruin the entire movie. That is not the case for this. Justin Hurwitz’s jazz-infused score compliments Stone and Gosling’s voices perfectly, and it adds the right amount of charm and elegance to each scene. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s lyrics capture the magic of Hollywood, from the sarcastic playfulness of “A Lovely Night,” to the truthful pain of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).”

Overall, this movie deserves the praise it has been getting from the various award shows. Not only are original ideas in Hollywood rare, an original musical is even harder to find. “La La Land” truly does capture the “City of Stars” in the right light, and it pays off.

Rating: Four and a half popcorn kernels out of five.

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