Wed | Aug 16, 2017

'La La Land' taps deep into the soul

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 1:00 AMDamian Levy
Ryan Gosling (right) and Emma Stone dance in 'La La Land'.
Academy Award nominees Ryan Gosling (left) and Emma Stone chase their dreams in ‘La La Land’.
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With 14 Academy Award nominations to its name, it's hard not to walk into La La Land affected by the hype surrounding it. A movie hasn't been nominated this much since Jack and Rose sailed the ocean (to Celine Dion, no less, although this movie has a little more singing than Titanic).

Impertinent perceptions aside, it's still almost impossible to review a movie that is already being lauded as the very best of last year. Yet, this is a review of La La Land, a movie that makes no apologies for what it is: a musical.

Within the first five minutes of the film, La La Land explodes into the first of many heavily choreographed song and dance numbers. I was technically impressed by these scenes. I marvelled at them.

I was also wholly bored by them. Sure, I appreciated how much work it took to film, especially when La La Land uses so many steady shots to showcase its performances. Still, I remained unmoved.

It wasn't until about 20 minutes in that I could see what people had been talking about. Something about Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap dancing won me over, to the point where the film had me grinning from ear to ear as it went on. Those stars play the lead roles in this film. He's a musician, she's an actress. After the film pairs them up and kick-starts their love story, the investment I was searching for just fell into place.

La La Land has a very well-done romance story. At times, you'll be able to tell exactly where it's going. The other times, you won't care about that. You'll be too busy being swept up in the emotion of the characters - hard not to when Ryan Gosling literally sweeps Emma Stone off her feet. The other love story is for the past, with its classical style reflected in its old-soul characters.

When I wasn't charmed by the characters, I was transported by the film's playfulness. The camera bobs and weaves around like a jazz instrument. It's not content to simply film the content. It has to react to it as well.

La La Land is one of those movies that is just relentlessly good. It just might be one of the greatest of all time.