La La Land is the movie you’ve been waiting for, the movie that’s been absent the past few years. It’s guaranteed to put a grin on your face and a dance in your step.
The film follows Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who begins a relationship with struggling jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) after several chance encounters. The couple sings and dances — literally — through paying their dues in the glitzy Los Angeles rat race.
La La Land is a big movie about big things. Big performances. Big romance. Big song and dance routines, all written specifically for this film. Big, saturated colors. Big lighting cues, melodramatic almost to the point of self-satire.
Big shots. The camerawork in this movie is immense. It’s primarily shot in gigantic Cinemascope wide enough to feel like you can see the entire city in every shot, and everything in that massive frame is colorful and bright and meticulously well-placed. On top of the overwhelming size of the shots, most sequences are built on extremely long takes, highlighted by the opening number “Another Day of Sun,” which is performed in one several-minute shot that actually serves as the opening shot of the film. This is what immediately shoots La La Land to the top of the list of the year’s best films — most movies simply cannot compete with its immaculate composition and choreography and scale, which writer/director Damien Chazelle takes every excuse to show off.
Within that frame, the perfect cast brings the script to life. Gosling has been America’s eminent sweetheart for more than 10 years now, and his cool talent steadies the film. In a performance that looks for all the world like it will win her an Oscar, Stone captures the camera in every scene.
One of the critical acclaim taglines associated with the film is “They don’t make movies like this anymore,” and while that phrasing is a little defeatist, it speaks to the vague but powerful nostalgia the film evokes. La La Land perfectly captures the idea of the movies. When people reminisce about drive-ins from decades past or when you see happy people eating popcorn in the concession commercials ahead of a feature, I have to imagine this is the movie they’re thinking about. It strikes that almost impossible balance of being both harmless and fluffy and also completely unforgettable.
Go see this movie right now. I doubt it will lose anything on home media, but this is the kind of movie to come out to the theater for. Bring a date, bring your kids, bring your freaking mother and have a good time. It’s not a masterpiece, it’s just a good, fun time at the movies.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, syndicated columnist at the Lewisville Texan Journal and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.