Lighthearted film enchants

Emma Walz, Managing editor

The film “La La Land” opens with a stretch of colorful cars immobilized by traffic, prompting a spontaneous musical number. Brightly-colored shirts contrast with dull concrete on the highway as young men and women jump on top of their cars and sing about their hopes of “making it” as actors.
After this peppy outbreak is over, the two main characters Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) meet for the first time as strangers: Sebastian honks at her and she gives him the middle finger.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, this movie is equal parts musical and romance. Aspiring actress Mia frequents auditions without luck; jazz pianist Sebastian is having trouble finding work because of his reluctance to stray from the pure origins of jazz music. They bond over their balance of sunny optimism and pragmatism, and, despite their initial disdain, end up dating.
The rest of the film involves the conflict faced when choosing between pursuing dreams or settling for the people you love. The movie derives its themes from the very real concerns of those struggling to chase their aspirations.
Gosling and Stone have previously worked together as love interests in “Crazy Stupid Love,” and their easy chemistry is clearly visible on screen. Leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are nominated for best actress and actor.
Stone plays an idealistic yet sensible struggling actress, and you can’t help but feel like there’s an autobiographical element. Gosling embraces his role as a love interest who exceeds in quirky dates and cheesy pick-up lines bound to make anyone swoon. I didn’t expect either of them to be able to sing, but their voices worked very well together.
This film’s strongest feature was its soundtrack. Although “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” were nominated for best original score, my personal favorite number was “Someone in the Crowd,” where Mia finds hard to accept the reality that success in acting is all about social connections, not actual skill.
Almost all of the critics I’ve heard have stated that they “just don’t like musicals.” So I’d like to make it clear: “La La Land” is a musical. It can be seen as paying homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, drawing motifs and visuals from classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Needless to say, when the lights went up, my mouth was touching the ground. The final scene was easily the most powerful, and I freely admit to being a nuisance in the theater and yelling at the screen in agitation.
I wouldn’t be surprised if “La La Land” won the award for best picture, as well as those for its whopping 13 other nominations.
As of press time, the film was still playing at the Hunt Valley Regal Cinemas.
It is slated for digital release April 2017.