3 STARS – WHOLESOME
It has been 80 years since the heyday of the tap-dancing, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals, but LA LA Land is a revival of the kind of movie that made Hollywood famous. Set in modern times with the remarkably talented Emma Stone as an aspiring playwright, and Ryan Gosling as an inspired and gifted jazz pianist, these two capture the heart and style of the magic of Hollywood that will cause you to leave the theater humming a happy tune.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are like the thousands before them that have beat a path to the celluloid capital of the world in hopes of “making it big.” Each is tested daily, in countless ways, to prove that they are the best in their league. Each suffers from the constant turn-downs by agents and casting directors, friends and family. Each has to struggle to keep going and this shared journey is the heart of the story.
The “soul” of the story is in the creative genius that is represented in the telling of the tale. In their hearts they see the world as a dazzling spectacle of color, light, harmony, and joy. Writer and Director Damien Chazelle has masterfully crafted these elements into a tour de force, with Gosling and Stone rising to the occasion in a way that often takes you into a kaleidoscope of sounds, sights, and emotions that are a pure delight.
Told through the lens of four seasons of the year, these periods represent a form of dormant growth, emerging beauty, realized passion, and reflective insight. Each is a story unto itself, but the combined effect reminds the viewer that we should never give up on our dreams. Just when life seems to be letting us down, or we feel hopeless, it may be the moment where our “seasons” are about to change and great sacrifice gives way to an equal beauty and joy.
Unlike Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, Gosling and Stone did not come to the screen as accomplished dancers and singers. Their technical talents don’t compare to the masters of this genre. What these two do show is the ability to take on an impossibly difficult series of roles and make them seem up-to-date and seamless. Gosling’s musical ability has never been on display in a film before, but he is an accomplished and captivating musician. Stone’s ability to portray a variety of emotions is Oscar-worthy.
When the story comes to its conclusion, you are left to consider how small changes in our lives could take us in different directions. What would have happened along the way if we made slightly different choices? What about the people that we choose to become our closest friends, partners, lovers, or spouses? LA LA Land gives us a glimpse of how the journey of our life is filled with twists and turns that we need to respond to, sometimes with fear or faith, but always with gratitude.
- The classic musical has an emotive ability to lift our spirits. Why do you think such an idealized experience is so powerful? How does music and dance stir your soul?
- Love creates an imaginative partnership in all of our lives. How have your loving relationships stirred your creativity? How have they harmed your confidence and imagination?
- If your life was a musical, what musical genre would best express you and your journey?