Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Carolyn MacKenzie, Managing Editor for Bonfire Thoughts.
Movie: La La Land
Bonfire Rating: 5/5
You don’t need to live in Los Angeles or like musicals to love this film. (Minor spoilers ahead.)
It’s the movie that pulled a clean sweep at the Golden Globes last weekend. 7 for 7. It’s the movie that was nominated for 11 BAFTAs. And it’ll most likely be the movie to beat at the Oscars next month.
Is it worth all the hype? Hands down.
Writer and director Damien Chazelle does what any good artist would do: draw from tradition. Evoking moments from classic films such as Singin’ in the Rain and Rebel Without a Cause, La La Land presents a story that is deeply resonant and visually exhilarating.
The film opens on a Los Angeles highway, unsurprisingly gridlocked. What follows is a creatively choreographed scene shot in what appears to be a single take on a massive highway ramp. Aside from the logistics of the scene, which are impressive even if you don’t like singing and dancing, this opening number traces a narrative that the movie goes on to deliver: in the pursuit of various entertainment careers, people have to make sacrifices and compromises, painful even though they occur beneath blue skies and palm trees.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show themselves to be dedicated to their art. Even if the rest of the film was terrible (which it wasn’t), it would still be worth seeing for Stone’s performance alone. Gosling does Sebastian’s piano pieces with his own hands, and is astounding. Stone’s vocals in her final song, Audition, are excellent. Both bring enthusiasm that shows in the many dance numbers throughout the film.
Though some musical scenes are more seamlessly integrated into the story than others, the film does a good job at not being overtaken by its music. There’s a handful of original songs as opposed to songs that account for 98% percent of the film’s dialogue. Even if you don’t like musicals, you can enjoy this movie.
There are a lot of beautiful things about La La Land, music and story aside. There’s a starry dance sequence at the Griffith Observatory that looks like it’s plucked from a dream. Another dance takes place on a hill overlooking the city at sunset. The film’s final sequence, perhaps a touch too long, makes up for it with its fast-paced run through of several Parisian and Old Hollywood-esque scenes.
And when the film reaches its close, you feel the characters with you even after you leave. That, to me, is the mark of a good story.
Long story short: La La Land’s seven Golden Globes were well-earned. Let’s see it if rides this wave of acclaim all the way through awards season to the Oscars.