An ASW Review of La La Land

by Diana Stoyanova

Fourteen Oscar nominations and seven Golden Globe wins later, La La Land became the musical that rocked Hollywood this year. The movie tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they pursue artistic careers in modern LA. Directed and written by Damien Chazelle, the production focuses on LA and pays homage to the Golden Age of cinema in the 50s.

While it is no lie that La La Land has received widespread recognition, opinions within the ASW community vary. Many, like Amy Oh (11) enjoyed the film. Amy claims that “the best part were the musical numbers.”

However, there are also people, like Sara Motlik (11), who did not enjoy the film because “the plot dragged on and the unconvincing acting performance made the film an overall unimpressive experience.”  Thus, just like any other movie, this production is not perfect. However, the strengths definitely compensate for the weaknesses.

Gosling and Stone both bring the movie to life through their realistic and down to earth acting. Emma Stone’s performance is subtle yet in some places so raw and emotional that it leaves an impression on the audience. For example, one of Stone’s most memorable scenes shows her alone underneath the spotlight of an audition. The shot is so simple yet the emotions conveyed through her demeanor, particularly her eyes and voice, immerse the audience in her performance and help them connect with Mia’s character. Overall, I was less impressed with the portrayal of Gosling’s character. His acting is more bland with less emotional facets. However, his natural charm is also a perfect fit for Seb’s frantic yet dreamy disposition.

Perhaps the most enchanting part of the actors’ performance is their undeniable chemistry. Watching Stone and Gosling onscreen feels so effortless because it seems as if the conversations they have weren’t planned beforehand and are happening in real time between two actual lovers. The combination of their natural amicability and the witty script make their relationship more believable to the audience.

As neither actor is a professional singer, the singing may be considered a low point of the movie. However, I found that these imperfections add to the beauty of the music and the film in general by reminding us that, despite the enchanting nature of the production, the two characters are struggling and human too. While the score may not be a masterpiece, it certainly contains several catchy and beautiful tunes that you will find yourself humming for the next few days.

An area in which the film particularly excels is the astounding cinematography. The movie incorporates a fluorescent palette reminiscent of 50s Hollywood. In some moments, the audience forgets they are in the present until a cell phone rings or a car zooms by. On the other hand, the cinematography also features various sunsets and landscapes that create a portrayal of LA away from the flashing lights of hollywood. Overall, the movie uses its cinematography to create a truly captivating atmosphere for the audience. For example, there is a scene where Mia and Seb literally dance through the stars.

The strongest aspect of this movie is the message. The plot is rather simple and, at times, the action may feel unnecessarily long. However, La La Land incorporates themes that many young and aspiring people can relate to. Underneath its fantastic atmosphere, the movie discusses the sacrifices one has to make in order to follow his or her ambitions. It touches on the difficulty of balancing your dreams with your personal life, showing that even under the bedazzled hollywood lights nothing is perfect.

According to Katrina Macmillen (11) from ACS Hillingdon, “by this point, the film is fairly overrated.” She emphasizes that while this isn’t a flaw of the movie itself, the hype can take away from the experience. Despite that, I would urge anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to go and watch it. Even if you think you’ve heard everything there is about Hollywood’s biggest production this year, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

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