La La La La Land: A Perfect Entertainment

La La La La Land: A Perfect Entertainment January 5, 2017

La La Land

Jan and I saw La La Land on Sunday. The headline: it was a delight!

Not exactly a throw back to an earlier era, but not not, either. La La Land brings tinges of musicals of days long gone. And, at the same time, it is very much a movie for our day. A pitch perfect entertainment.

And we are mostly talking an entertainment. I was aware that several brief descriptions called it a “drama.” Musical. Comedy. Drama. All of that. But, most of all it is a romance. And, along the way, a bit of a tribute to Los Angeles. The LA, the Hollywood, that is the stuff of tinsel, bright lights, and dreams, made and broken. You know, the stuff of dreams.

I’ve heard that bad times are good times for pure entertainments. And, yep, It was nice for a little while to live in a world focused on two young entertainment hopefuls. Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a jazz musician in an era that no longer cares about his art form – these young folk are what used to be called movie stars. As several reviewers observe, neither is a natural singer or dancer. However, they are up to the need of the moment and deliver something that’s a tad more than a confection. They carry the story, and to the degree one can speak of “believing” in a musical, well, they make it happen.

Confection. Frankly, I wouldn’t want something like La La Land to be a lot more than that confection. The medium, a musical, just isn’t up to something too deep. Okay, I can think of one or two pretty good attempts. But, that asserted, it has a realistic element to the fantasy that really works. And, frankly, I was enchanted from the opening, an astonishing one take song and dance number, “Another Day of Sun,” ranging along an infamous Los Angeles traffic jamb. And I was carried along right to the end.

The music throughout is first rate, written by Justin Hurwitze and with lyrics for a lot of the pieces by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Jan, who is much more sensitive to such things than I, declared the music is really, really good. Something that, frankly, doesn’t always happen in musicals. Oh, and John Legend brings another kind of star power to the project. I gather this might be his first foray into acting. Wouldn’t know he’s a novice there. Really worked.

What I noticed in this movie  was how whole bodies were engaged, the film brings a sensuousness to the reality, and where bodies included cars and streets and buildings and the landscape itself as well as the humans who move among it all. And there was something about the movie moving from the pure fantasy of the first act, seamlessly changing tone, and bringing the whole thing to a satisfying, but also more realistic conclusion than I expected.

La La Land was written and directed by Damien Chazelle. This guy is now officially a genius. At Rotten Tomatoes two hundred, forty-eight professional reviewers saw La La Land, and ninety-three percent of them gave it the old thumb’s up. While eighty-nine percent of the thirty thousand viewers who registered an opinion liked it.

Writing for Variety, critic Owen Gleiberman, comparing it to another classic of the genre, declares how La La Land brings “formal daring, the sweet sadness, the willingness to portray love as a highly imperfect thing…” and finally a “lush open-mindedness…” that suggests this may be not just a good movie, but a great one. ‘Tis true. Several reviewers have declared it may well be the best musical since Singing in the Rain. We are talking very, very good.

A delightful one hundred and twenty-eight minutes.

If you like movies, go see it.

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