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REVIEW: Going gaga for ‘La La Land’

by Gina Eisenhut

La La Land has finally reached the region! After releasing to limited theaters on Christmas Day, the film arrived to Fort Wayne the first weekend of J-term. It was definitely worth the drive and the wait.

The equal parts romantic comedy and musical brings back the talented tandem of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to the screen. It’s honestly one of the best well-rounded films I’ve seen. The chemistry between the pair sets it near the top of my personal rom-com ranking. But it’s also an incredible artistic and visual piece.

I think its commitment to balance is the key to the film’s overwhelming popularity and success. Those expecting “Singing in the Rain”  song-and-dance attention may be a little disappointed, but I think “La Land Land” strikes a perfect harmony for the 21st-century audience.

Even musical skeptics should be pleased. The modern twist to classic musical styling is tastefully done and most palpable when numbers are interrupted by the familiar sound of an iPhone beep. Genius. Relevant.

Stone and Gosling set aflame the score and screenplay, both of which won Golden Globes. Gosling and Stone each took home awards for their performances in the comedy/musical category. The film won a record seven Globes.

I was previously unaware of both actors’ musical inclinations–other than Stone’s unforgettable “Pocketful of Sunshine” solo in “Easy A” and appearance in a Lip-Synch Battle with Jimmy Fallon, of course. (I obviously missed her 2014-15 Broadway stint.)

While I wouldn’t say either has off-the-chart tap dancing moves or singing abilities, I was surprised and impressed by their skills, which were more than enough to get me dancing to the soundtrack in my room the next day.

La La Land” tugs on your heart strings, makes you laugh, and might even give you a few tears. Like I said, well rounded.

Mia (Stone), a struggling actress who works as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot, meets Sebastian (Gosling), a pianist determined to revive jazz music. Each of their stories are homages to dreamers who move to L.A. to chase fame.

The pair’s first encounter happens over the latter’s road rage on a jammed highway that acts as the stage for a peppy opening number, “Another Day in the Sun.”

From there, they bump into each other again and again, a coincidence they sing about in one of my favorite numbers, “A Lovely Night.” Stone’s comedic streak is on display, as she comments on the loss of a beautiful view on two unmatched singles like themselves.

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

Mia and Sebastian take us along their journey, with my personal favorite tune from the film, “City of Stars” serving as the threshold from platonic to romantic. They ultimately move in together and support the others’ pursuits while chasing their own dreams. Mia designs a sign for Sebastian’s dream club, and he inspires Mia to dabble in playwriting, an avenue that could lead to her big break in acting. Mia learns to love jazz and dances at the clubs as Sebastian plays the keys. It’s bread-and-butter rom-com content without the cheesiness and cliches.

With that being said, the film presents the classic clash between romance and ambition. Two budding artists share a love, but different dreams. When Sebastian’s takes him on the road with a fellow jazz enthusiast played by John Legend, the couple has to evaluate where their priorities lie.

The ending is whirlwind that offers sequences of reality and fantasy, and I would venture to guess that fans’ evaluation of the film is connected largely to their satisfaction with the end. Personally, as gut-wrenching as it was, the final sequence and accompanying song stuck out as the most impressive throughout. It was more pizazz than I expected after I experienced no lag in the middle, but I was more than happy to take all this film offered—which was a lot. Simply put, La La Land” is a delight—a musical with a slice of reality offered by two of the best performers in the business.

“La La Land” will give you more passion for jazz and tap dancing than you know what to do with. Maybe SAB can create a So You Think You Can Tap? event… or a screening when it comes out on DVD. Until then, you can find me singing along to the soundtrack.

Stars: 5/5

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