When I saw “Whiplash,” I knew I was seeing the birth of a brilliant director and now with Damien Chazelle’s latest film, “La La Land,” he more than proves I was right. This film is not only a beautiful homage to the musicals of long ago, but it’s a bittersweet love story that you will remember well after the credits roll.
The film opens on a crowded Los Angeles freeway in winter where frustrated drivers break out in song and dance. Something I myself have dreamed about doing many times when I’ve been stuck on the 405.
One of the drivers happens to be Mia (Emma Stone), who works as barista on a studio lot. Of course, this being La La Land, she’s also an aspiring actress. Now we all know that every actress/actor does their best preparation for an audition in their car and that is unfortunately the case where Mia is concerned.
She becomes very distracted and this leads to a moment of road rage between her and another lucky driver, named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who happens to be a struggling jazz pianist.
Well, Mia’s audition doesn’t go too well so her three roommates, in an attempt to cheer her up, invite her to a lavish party downtown, where of course we have more singing and dancing. Bored, Mia leaves the party, and discovers her car is towed. Not a good day for our budding actress. She’s forced to walk home.
Meanwhile, Sebastian isn’t doing much better. He’s playing a gig at a restaurant, a job he absolutely hates, since the owner Bill (J.K. Simmons) won’t let him play any jazz. He has to follow a song list and from the look on his face, he is anything but happy. So what does he do? Play his own music of course and wind up getting fired, but not before Emma walks into the restaurant and hears him play. She goes to compliment him, but Sebastian brushes her off.
Months later, Mia is at another party and notices Sebastian again, now a keyboardist for a 1980s pop cover band. After several more encounters, which include several more musical numbers, the couple finally connect and yes, they fall in love and move in together.
If I say anything else, it will definitely fall into the SPOILER category, which is the last thing I want to do. But I will say that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are just wonderful, and if the film doesn’t get a Best Picture Win, I will be surprised.
I gave “La La Land,” which opened in theatres Friday, December 9th, five bagels out of five. Do not miss it.