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La La Land

No car in LA? No problem! “Just another 12 miles to the theater.”

Synopsis: A jazz musician and an aspiring actress fall in love while chasing their dreams in LA.

La La Land pairs charismatic actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian, a jazz pianist, and Mia, a striving actress looking for their big breaks in Los Angeles. Sebastian dreams of owning a jazz club, while getting by on dispiriting gigs at restaurants and with an 80’s cover band. Sebastian spends his meager income living in the past, buying vinyl records and a circa 1970 convertible. Mia makes ends meet working at a coffee house while going on mostly fruitless auditions. Don’t worry, she can afford lots of cute sundresses and a big apartment.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle creates a new-fashioned musical, burnishing Los Angeles itself with a romantic glow. And Emma and Ryan give inspired and sympathetic performances. La La Land begins in an LA traffic jam where, before you know it, the motorists/wannabe stars leave their cars, singing and dancing up a storm. Mia and Sebastian are stuck in the same traffic, but stay in their cars like safe and sane people. They catch each other’s eye and ire on the highway before meeting later at one of Sebastian’s miserable jobs. Our two stars go through a little bit of love-hate before they are firmly in the love zone. We’re the happy onlookers when Seb and Mia drift into the deserted Griffith Observatory and begin dancing in the planetarium. Buoyed by their new found love, they are soon floating up among the stars. Swoon

Ryan and Emma have great chemistry and I like to imagine that they are good friends. They have more interesting backstories than their characters. For example: Sebastian has always liked jazz vs. Ryan moved from Canada to Florida to star on Disney Channel’s The Mickey Mouse Club. I wonder if he and co-star Justin Timberlake got up to any hijinks off-set. Another example: Mia lived across the street from a library vs. Emma convinced her parents to let her leave school and move from Arizona to LA to become an actress. I wonder if she was pressured to color her hair red and keep it that way.

Mia and Sebastian seemed so happy together in the movie and I hoped that Emma and Ryan had splendid love lives too. FYI, Ryan found love with his The Place Beyond the Pines co-star, Eva Mendes. They don’t show up on the red carpet together and

Feeling romantic at a screening of the squirrel animated classic “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.”

neither did Emma and her former beau, Andrew Garfield. I saw a clip of them promoting The Amazing Spider-Man on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Andrew G. seemed angry, like he might throw a punch in Ellen’s direction if she made one more mild, smiling inquiry about them being a couple. Emma looked like she wanted to disappear. But, no, you are not allowed to disappear if you are a big star. Which brings me to what the movie doesn’t explore… In the Be Careful What You Wish For department…

If Mia becomes a famous actress, she’ll have paparazzi stalking her and tabloids investigating her romantic assignations just like Emma. The gossip columnists can’t stop yearning for Emma and Andrew Garfield to get back together. After they broke up, one item declared that they were taking “secret strolls” around London. Another insisted that they “sneak around” holding hands in New York. I wish that Ellen DeGeneres could get to the bottom of this, but she should ask shy Emma this time, not Andrew G.

Now if Sebastian’s club becomes a reality…wait, this is an old-timey jazz club in high-rent LA? Uh, nope: time to find another pipe dream. But at least he won’t be a celebrity like Ryan who can no longer be just a regular guy refereeing a dispute over a painting in the middle of the street. (This really happened.)  Instead it became a weird incident, broadcast to the world, wherein “The Notebook Guy” (Ryan’s words) shows up and then people gather round like, Is this a movie?

So maybe Damien Chazelle should film a La La Land Part II, where say, Bradley Cooper tries to revive ragtime music and Jennifer Lawrence endeavors to promote raccoons as emotional support animals. Their characters would sing and dance and fall in love while chasing their improbable dreams. And be happy whether they succeed or not. Now that would be a Hollywood ending…or not 😉

Movie Overview

Grade:   A-

Cut to the Chase:   Vibrant movie, bittersweet love story. The music itself is… just OK.

Comedy Highlight: Ryan Gosling’s character takes direction from an over zealous photographer at a band photo shoot.

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