Released in the United States on December 9, the musical drama La La Land saw almost immediate success for its clever and insightful reimagining of vintage musicals for the modern age. The film took the Venice Film Festival by storm at the end of August, and was widely considered by critics to be on this year’s most anticipated list. Owen Gleiberman of Variety described the film as “the most audacious big-screen musical in a long time, and—irony of ironies—that’s because it’s the most traditional.” Through the most aggressive form of retrograding, La La Land proves itself unique in the scope of modern cinema.
Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling and bright-eyed Emma Stone teamed up as a couple that is widely known for their chemistry in rom-com classic Crazy Stupid Love. In La La Land, Ryan takes the male lead in the form of Sebastian, a talented jazz pianist who hopes to open up his own jazz bar someday, while Stone plays the role of an aspiring actress named Mia. The story centers around a battle the two wannabes have in their pursuit of success in Los Angeles, and the sacrifices they must make in the face of their wildest fantasies. It’s a conflict of love and dream as the young duo find themselves making big steps into the glamour of Hollywood.
The musical aspect of La La Land lends itself well to the fact that the movie is centered around the romance of Sebastian and Mia. The two piece together their story in the form of catchy tap-danced numbers and swing dances over the Los Angeles skyline. It’s almost frustrating to see how perfectly their banter can be reflected in the form of their dancing; it’s intimate, but maintains a sense of rapport as the two make their way across the screen. Largely, the sound track is based around the pomp and energy of old-school jazz, and the movie is lended a vintage sense of the allure surrounding show biz. There’s something sultry in the sound of the movie that makes its way into the core of Gosling and Stone’s performance.
However, La La Land still proves itself to be a remarkably clever reimagining of the urban hustle of Los Angeles—the introductory scene of the movie is a flawlessly choreographed interpretation of a traffic jam, littered with flashy fancy moves and soaked with an atmosphere of reverie. The opening stood out as arguably the best choreographed dance scene in a modern film; its not camera tricks, it’s not CGI, it’s simply hundreds of people moving perfectly to the beat and creating the sense of synchronicity that makes old-fashioned musicals so charming. Moreover, it’s difficult to say that the opening number is alone in the film, as the film proves itself to be a marvel of talent.
Ultimately, it would be difficult to say that La La Land hadn’t deserved its place as the most anxiously-awaited movie of 2016. It’s simply a film that is bound to age well, because it plays on the principles of craft that have made Fred Astaire a household name to this day. La La Land is inspiring, intimate, and charming in a way that viewers don’t often see anymore.