"This is the dream," Sebastian says excitedly to Mia, as they sit in his favorite jazz club and watch the musicians play. "It's conflict and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting!"
That line basically sums up the energy and execution of "La La Land", Damien Chazelle's second film. Not only is it his best, but it's the best movie I've seen in the past year. Practically everything about this movie is perfect: Chazelle's confident direction, Justin Hurwitz's beautiful score, the amazing cinematography and the highly impressive choreography. What really makes the movie, however, is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's pairing as Seb and Mia. Their chemistry is practically an old Hollywood secret at this point, the two having already starred together as romantic leads in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "Gangster Squad". They play off each other like the musicians at Seb's club, and Gosling continues his trend as a seriously underrated comedic performer (he's a highlight in "The Big Short and The Nice Guys").
As a moviegoer or a film lover, "La La Land" is something of a miracle, if not the movie we've been waiting for. This has been Chazelle and Hurwitz's passion project, six years in the making, and it is clearly shown in their attention to both story and detail. The first and last dance numbers of the movie ("Another Day Of Sun" and "Epilogue") are practically made for one of the old MGM musicals. Gosling and Stone's tap dance routine in "A Lovely Night" rivals anything Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly did. Yet the film's lack of name recognition and its polarizing original score made it a big risk for producers, and it took a long time for the project to garner interest. However, as of this writing, it's already made $68.2 million at the box office— over double its $30 million budget. On top of its perfect sweep at the Golden Globes (seven awards in total), it's safe to say the gamble paid off in a big way.
As an artist, however, this film is a really important reminder that dreams can change and take time. Like Chazelle and Hurwitz's vision for the film. It takes six years for Seb and Mia to get to where they always wanted to be. And by that time they reach that point, they're not even together anymore. "Here's to the fools who dream" Mia sings in her last audition, and she is rewarded for it. Things change every day. You may find a job that you hate but pays well, you may keep getting rejected, you may go back home feeling defeated every day. But the message of "La La Land" is to never give up. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way. Stay foolish, keep dreaming. The City of Stars is shining just for you.
I've been thinking about this film since I saw it last week. My brother bought the soundtrack the day after, and it's currently in our car stereo. Sometimes I'll think about the planetarium scene—the dynamic between Gosling and Stone—and I'll smile. The promise of dreams that will come true, and dreams of how far my career can take me. It's conflict, and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting.