LaLa Land is magic

You don’t have to even like musicals to fall in love with LaLa Land.

The story follows two aspiring artists – jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling – The Notebook) and actress Mia (Emma Stone – The Help) thrust together by fate through a series of chance meetings.

Brazenly opening with an enormous one-shot production number that takes place on a highway overpass in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the film explodes to technicolour life and never stops.

Movies like this just aren’t made any more. The story line, the production numbers, the lush colours and lighting are all reminiscent of the biggest Hollywood musicals of the 1950s.

Instead of being annoying or feeling corny though, the heart that beats in this film renews not only our nostalgia for a kinder and more beautiful time, but rather faith in the magic of Hollywood to allow us to dream.

Set in present day Los Angeles, everything about this film feels retro. Sebastian drives an old car with a tape deck.

He listens to vinyl records, wears silk ties and wing-tipped shoes.

Mia drives a Prius but has old movie posters on her walls and wears dresses reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s.

This is almost exclusively a two-person film as secondary characters dance and drift in and out either in silence or with minimal dialogue.

The casting couldn’t have been more perfect. Gosling is the quintessential, starry-eyed poet, tortured by his artistic soul and frustrated by the world’s obstinate refusal in helping him achieve his dreams.

Stone is positively luminescent as Mia. Her acting audition scenes are heart breaking and she can convey with a glance of those inhumanly large eyes exactly what her mind is thinking.

Aside from being exceptionally attractive human beings, Gosling and Stone have fantastic chemistry together.

Despite neither possessing what might be considered a strong singing voice, their sincere delivery of the songs perfectly serves their characters and communicates the music.

John Legend is charming as Sebastian’s successful musician friend, Keith, who wants to lure him away to the world of commercial music.

There is an exceptional cameo by J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) as the cranky restaurant owner who fires Sebastian.

Thirty-one-year old writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) proves that three’s the charm with this perfect gem of a movie, his third. 

The film took six years to write and was a real labour of love for Chazelle and music composer Justin Hurwitz who also worked together on Whiplash and Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

Clearly, the writers are passionate musicians whose love of jazz pervades their previous works. In the film, Sebastian expresses his fear to Mia that real jazz is dying but that “it’s not gonna happen on my watch.”

As he educates Mia, she becomes a fan. One can’t help think this line is somewhat autobiographical for Chazelle and Hurwitz.

There are 17 songs on the soundtrack and the music is spectacular with fun lyrics and memorable melodies.

The film has been nominated for seven Golden Globes and I’m predicting an Oscar win for best score as well as nominations for best film, director, actor and best actress.

This movie is about staying true to one’s dreams while grappling with fear of one’s inadequacy.

Bring your tissues, as the final music sequence is enough to bring even the most jaded movie-goer to tears.

I give this film 5 enthusiastic hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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