Holy crap, I freaking loved this movie. I wasn’t expecting it to be much since the first 10-15 minutes or so were pretty standard (but fun) but the moment we start following the emotional journeys of the 2 leads, I was thoroughly hooked. It’s such a brilliant tribute to the era of Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire, and surprisingly, the rather standard story works remarkably because of the amount of heart in it. Yes, La La Land can be seen as a somewhat formulaic musical about chasing your dreams and love, but instead of making me roll my eyes, the whole thing tugged at my heartstrings and even gave me chills at times. The music is FREAKING FANTASTIC! I usually hate it in musicals when everyone suddenly breaks out into song and dance, but over here the energy is plain infectious. I was actually tapping my feet along some parts, and that “love melody” that Ryan Gosling plays (I don’t know what it’s called, the one that got him fired from his first job) actually gave me goosebumps in a good way. I’m a little bit giddy with excitement now, but I just feel like La La Land is the movie we all need at this particular period, what’s with the world’s chaos and the Oscar’s love for heavy dramas like Manchester by the Sea. It is filled with heart, heartbreak, energy, optimism, cheeriness, sadness and just love. 5/5 for film.
Look, I am admittedly biased about this but I have this massive crush on Emma Stone. To me, she is one of the most real celebrities out there and I really enjoy her on-screen and off-screen persona. She is another one of those actresses who can’t do wrong in my eyes, even if her actual performances aren’t necessarily that good. That being said, I have loved her since Easy A and Zombieland, and I’m so glad that she’s finally getting the career that she deserves.
You know how certain movies are basically vehicles for their lead performers? Like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind etc.? La La Land is really Emma Stone’s show. She is absolutely luminous and charming throughout the entire film, as if there is a kind of spotlight that is shining on her in every film.
Her performance here as Mia really grew on me as I mulled over it on the way home from the theatre. Firstly, I wouldn’t say Mia is the most original character ever. She is an aspiring actress who repeatedly fails to make it big before she actually succeeds, finding love in the process. This Eliza Doolittle archetype has been played so many times that it is extremely difficult to give it a different kind of treatment. Emma Stone knows this and chooses to portray the character as written, but at the same time, she pours her own emotions, love and dreams into the character. There is so much life and love in Mia that we can’t help but root for her through her ups and downs.
Initially, I was quite content calling this a 4/5 performance, especially in the earlier parts of the performance. It’s not that she was bad (4 = very good for me), but I just thought it was going to be a pretty standard kind of musical performance that is charming and fun. However, her performance manages to hit some powerful highs, elevating it greatly. Stone’s portrayal of heartbreak especially got to me, like when Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) insults her or when her play fails. It wasn’t just “sadness” she was portraying – when she cries about being unable to pay the theatre, my heart freaking broke. And of course, there is her brilliant number that can teach Anne Hathaway a lesson or two about not needing to resort to histrionics to make a song powerful. I just love this performance. Even though I suspect there will be a certain backlash if she wins, I still think she would make a worthy winner. 5/5. (Note: Will probably downgrade it to 4.5 when I’m more objective, but I really loved her here guys!)
Ryan Gosling’s performance is also getting a lot of unexpected awards recognition, which I think many people didn’t see coming. I guess it’s because the attention has always been primarily on Emma’s performance.
I happen to think that Ryan Gosling is a much better actor than people tend to give him credit for (Blue Valentine, Half-Nelson, Drive). He does tend to sail on his charisma sometimes but it actually works cause, let’s face it: the guy is good-looking. Unfortunately, that sorta became an issue here because I am actually finding it a bit hard to write about his performance. As a matter of fact, his performance really allows me to see how good Emma Stone is, because I’m honestly just thinking about her all the time. While he is very good in playing Sebastian, it’s easy to see how much more Stone gave to the character.
It’s still very nice though – I could feel his strong passion for jazz actually, like how he constantly shifted toward playing jazz on the piano despite being told not to. His disappointment when he had to give up his love for jazz in order to survive can also be felt quite well. In a way, Mia and Sebastian are similar in their pursuits of dreams and passions, but for some reason, I just didn’t feel it as strongly for Gosling. It could also be due to the fact that Sebastian tends to internalize his emotions more (I think?). I also thought his earlier scene with his sister was a little bit flat, though not terrible.
The strength of Gosling’s performance is really his charm. I know this sounds negative, but actually, it was really needed for this role. He is just damn charismatic and it’s easy to see why Mia would fall for him despite them not getting along initially. It’s actually impossible to take your eyes off him, be it when he plays the piano, sings City of Stars (I prefer Emma’s song though) or wears a goofy costume while performing with his band.
The love story in La La Land is actually really cliche, with the initial bickering to the falling in love to the quarrels to the reconciliation to the…well, won’t spoil the ending. But the 2 actors have such brilliant chemistry that this formula actually freaking works. It’s no wonder why people are shipping both of them in real life, although Gosling is already married. All in all, a very nice performance by a good actor. 4/5.