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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

La La Land | Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K. Simmons | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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La La Land | Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K. Simmons | Review

There are plenty of figurative La La’s in this musical by Academy Award nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash).  Pushing all of 32 years of age, Chazelle evokes an Old Hollywood charm with his original story that most will feel before they recognize.

From the first scene of an L.A. freeway- turned- parking –lot- turned -song -and -dance number, the viewer understands that dialogue will turn to lyrics and movement to choreography in this 128-minute cinematic love letter to the City of Angels.
First there’s a meet-cute, followed by a meet-rude (my term) then another meet-cute that results in an attraction (when doesn’t it?).  The resulting alliance blends two dueling dreams that take our couple, Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) on paths that intertwine, unwind, and intricately braid again so that you’re sure they’re meant for each other.  Aren’t they?

La La Land plays it both ways – real life and Hollywood ending side by side, and no, they don’t match.  They are, however, portrayed with panache, longing, and liberal amounts of “what if?”  In a film where two people dance in silhouette among the stars, it’s hard to tell which is the more plausible outcome.

Mia is a barista on a large studio lot, pouring brew for stars with an infatuation that widens her eyes but not her horizons.  Discouraged by countless auditions that end with disrespect and dismissal, she’s in an unsatisfying relationship when she meets Sebastian with a middle finger on the freeway before the pair finds some middle ground later on.

 Sebastian is a jazz aficionado squeaking by with soul-crushing keyboard gigs while deferring his dream of owning a club to preserve the largely misunderstood musical genre that seems to be rapidly dying in popularity.

From there, hopes, disappointments, sellouts, and compromises are wrapped in bright colors and synchronized gestures.  Think doses of reality cleverly hidden within Technicolor whimsy as we follow a modern day Fred and Ginger, their top hat and ostrich feathers replaced by Smartphones and a Prius.
Sebastian and Mia don’t sing every line, but when they do, it’s with a vulnerability forged by passion, frustration, and persistence.  They don’t pretend to be vocalists and they pull it off by being perfectly imperfect.

You will hear the word “dream” a few times, but these characters are so likeable that you’ll forgive them as they cut a rug in matching wingtip shoes.  They will make you either crave the audition-musician adventure that is L.A., or want to run screaming (singing) in the opposite direction to watch their trials and tribulations from a safe, non-So-Cal refuge.  You WILL want to hang around until the ends.  Yes, I said ends. Plural.

Gosling and Stone sparkle, emote, and sometimes float (you’ll see).

They say that what goes up must come down, but this La La Land-ing manages to do it with a twinkle that you’d expect from the stars – both kinds.

With John Legend, J.K. Simmons, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

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