|Dance and romance among the stars|
|"Another Day of Sun" in a typical LA traffic jam|
Director Damien Chazelle has created a musical with no ifs, ands or buts. It is an homage to great musicals (and a few non-musicals) of the past (how many can you spot?) and he clearly has a "thing" for Ingrid Bergman. "La La Land" tells the timeless Hollywood story of aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz musician Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling).
|Mia's adorable apartment in Hollywood, shared by fellow struggling actresses|
It establishes its intent with a knock-out opening musical sequence in a Los Angeles traffic jam and never changes gears. It never looks down its nose at the genre, it never tries to mask its roots with a hip, modern attitude. Mia and Sebastian struggle and follow their dreams and we root wholeheartedly for them. So why, why did I hang back for a portion of the film?
|Mia and Sebastian never leave home without their two-toned tap shoes|
Why are people breaking into song or a dance in the middle of a story more acceptable (to me) when filmed over a half a century ago?
Ryan Gosling is a revelation. His ease with the dance and the music was enchanting and he displays a real star quality that induces more than a sigh or two.
|Mia looking chic for a night out on the town|
Emma Stone, while not quite as comfortable with the dance, is a winsome heroine. I finally had to admit that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies not in the stars, but in me.
|Mia and Sebastian follow their dreams and their hearts|
"La La Land" had to break through my own modern defenses. Why would I not immediately buy into the story of Mia and Sebastian while willingly accept Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden's romance? It wasn't them, it was me. Would I accept "Casablanca" so completely if the very same film was made today? But, "La La Land" did not let me off easy, and eventually I surrendered to the enchantment. The scene at the Griffith Observatory where the lovers dance among the stars sealed the deal. From then on, I was all in and if felt so good to be transported on the musical magic carpet ride.
|Come on - kiss!|
No spoilers here, but I'll just say that this love letter to Hollywood, to musicals, to star power and to romance is, for me, a winner. I think I will have to see it again because it's great to be enchanted at the movies and not in front of the TV.
|La La Land in La la Land|
I'm now adding Mia and Sebastian to the endless parade of movie-mad characters whose journeys to the promised land of Hollywood sometimes end in triumph and, often, heartbreak.