The word “fantasy” has some interesting and specific connotations. It immediately brings to mind a picture of elves and swords and magic. But dreams are also the realm of fantasy. And that’s exactly what La La Land is. A beautiful dream. A reverie. The movie isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. Every part of it is exact. Tailor-made. Cut to fit. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year and for good goddamn reason.
Let’s start off with the acting. Ryan Gosling delivers a great performance. He’s proficient, heartbreaking and joyous to watch. He has a pretty good track record of it, so it’s no surprise. Emma Stone is great in a lot of the movie, too. No one does the type of character she does as well as she does. She’s charming, goofy and sassy in even the barest of scenes. She is a bit uneven in the more serious scenes, and her singing left something to be desired, but whenever she’s on, she’s like wildfire; uncontrollable.
The music also plays a huge part in this movie. You can tell how much director Damien Chazelle is in love with Jazz. It’s pretty evident in Whiplash and it’s abundantly evident here. Sure, the musical sequences are fun and charming, and the dance numbers are a visual treat, but the heart of it is the music that runs even when the action isn’t as bombastic. Every scene felt beat-perfect, like the cast was playing a game of Dance Dance Revolution we weren’t quite privy to, all the time. It felt very deliberate and fit the theme really well.
The story is a bit light, and slightly predictable, but it felt true. Sometimes true things can feel like they are tautologies; better left unsaid. That said, it was resonant. The struggle between art and the difficulties of life, chasing dreams and unfortunate timings, I felt these close to my own heart. The ending was a bit of a departure of a take on the Classic Hollwood Ending, instead taking it to a more realistic direction, but it literally and figuratively was still a beautiful fantasy.
As I alluded to earlier, the movie isn’t perfect. Aside from Stone’s uneven performance and lack in singing ability, parts of the movie felt a bit too long. Primarily, I am talking about the ending sequence. I felt this way with Whiplash as well. The ending feels long, though there wasn’t a single scene that I feel could be cut from the entire sequence. Everything was put in place deliberately and paced in a Tetris-like perfect construction. Still, in both movies, I did feel a touch of languidity in the ending sequence. But not enough that the movie isn’t one of my favorites. Many of my favorite movies are deeply flawed, and while La La Land isn’t perfect, its flaws can’t possibly detract from such a rich, beautiful, thoughtful and enjoyable movie. I love this movie. Enough to write this about it. Please, go see this movie. It’s completely worth it, even if just to dream a beautiful dream for a couple of hours.