Damien Chazelle | USA, 2016
English | 128 minutes
With: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt
Set in modern day Los Angeles, this modern take on the Hollywood musical comes from Damien Chazelle, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of Whiplash. LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, who serves lattes to movie stars as a barista at a local coffee shop, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who plays dingy bars in order to scrape by. Both characters are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts in a film about everyday life that explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. The two meet and fall in love, but, as success mounts, the dreams they worked so hard to maintain threaten to tear them apart.
All of Chazelle’s key collaborators were clearly in total sync with the project’s aims. Composer Justin Hurwitz, who worked on both the director’s previous films, has delivered an LP’s worth of buoyant, charming tunes, mostly in a jazzy vein, with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul supplying the lyrics. Production designer David Wasco and costume designer Mary Zophres adroitly supplied touches of the old and new in an elegant way, while choreographer Mandy Moore similarly danced a stylistic tightrope that greatly helped Chazelle achieve his aim of delivering a welcome gift of vintage goods in a dazzling new package.