Anytime you see big movie studio back lots depicted in films, there’s inevitably two kinds of productions happening: a western and a musical. While neither are as prevalent as they were in the golden age of Hollywood, they’re repeatedly referenced and called upon for the raw feelings they still have the ability to evoke.
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is a love letter to the kind of musical you almost never see anymore: the romantic comedy with two adorable leads who hate each other at first but can bring a house down with their singing and dancing numbers. Today’s cynical audience (exemplified by a screening room full of critics) usually has very little time for this kind of clichéd fluff, but Chazelle and co. do such a great job capturing the magic of a past era and supplanting it to a modern day setting that La La Land is a joy to get lost in.
The opening scene involves a heavily choreographed song and dance number set in a Los Angeles traffic jam. This is the weakest set piece as it’s missing what makes the rest of the movie pop: its stars and its sets (I’m a sucker for sunsets, both real and unreal). It helps that we’ve seen Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together before (first in Crazy, Stupid, Love and surely SOMEONE saw Gangster Squad), as it adds to their Fred and Ginger-like familiarity. They’re everything we want our movie stars to be: attractive, stylish, familiar, funny, and just a little vulnerable.
Apart from its adoration of Jazz music and a brief appearance by JK Simmons, there’s nothing that would indicate this was made by the same person who wrote and directed Whiplash. It’s so unabashedly romantic that it could almost serve as an anecdote to Blue Valentine.
You might be tempted to take a date to this movie, but trust me, you won’t be able to live up to the romance, take your mother (or grandmother) instead, she’ll love you for it.
Monday Sept. 12, 6:15pm @ Princess of Wales Theatre
Tuesday Sept. 13, 11:30am @ Visa Screening Room
Friday Sept. 16, 9:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2