On the Bandwagon
By Sam Perwin
Damien Chazelle's gorgeous film La La Land, about an actor and a musician who fall in love, dance, and sing their way through modern LA, is by no means perfect. You'd think, for all the praise it's been receiving, that it's the Citizen Kane of our time, but in truth, it's much more like the Singin' in the Rain of our time: a movie that believes wholeheartedly in the saving graces of music, dance, and movie magic.
There's been a lot of talk about the political situation we're currently in and its many apt comparisons to the rise of the Hitler and the Nazis in 1939. Things were bad - downright terrifying, and out of that climate cinematic artists brought forth some of the most beautiful, lasting, and important films in history: The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind just to name a few. La La Land is arriving at a similar time. It's charm is so undeniable and it's message of believing in yourself and your dreams so important right now, that we and all the critics, are able to overlook its minor flaws and get swept up in its magic.
For example, as much as I adore both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as actors (and both do a wonderful job in that department), neither has the singing or acting chops to really sell the musical numbers. This is a shame, because, well, they're delightful. The choreography (by Mandy Moore! Yes, girl!) is playful and perfect. The songs by beloved NYC composers Pasek & Paul (whose Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is also getting some pretty strong raves), are heartfelt and meaningful. This could have been a wonderful opportunity to give some of the hard working Broadway singers and dancers some well-deserved love. Imagine Tony Yazbek as Sebastian or Pippa Soo as Mia. It's a whole different experience.
But, as I said, these are small gripes. The filmmaking and cinematography are so stunning and the seamlessness of the musical numbers so expert that Chazelle has really pulled off a miracle: a movie musical that is both completely, believably contemporary yet whose heart is firmly, romantically in the past. For me, it was a reminder to keep the faith. [SPOILER ALERT] Both characters get their dreams come true, if not with each other. You just have to believe in a little bit of magic.