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Friday, December 30, 2016

City of Stars (When Sebastian Met Mia)

The subject of my final review of 2016 also happens to be the best of the 65 movies I’ve seen in theaters this year, Damien Chazelle’s reverently crafted and wondrously exuberant musical love letter to the City of Angels, Golden Age “CinemaScope” musicals (RIP, Debbie), classical jazz and lost love told through the eyes of two young lovebirds struggling to realize their dreams in modern-day Los Angeles.  With ‘La La Land' the immensely talented Harvard man Chazelle, who previously directed and wrote the Oscar darling ‘Whiplash,’ single-handedly rejuvenated the movie musical and gave us the perfect feel-good movie in which to surrender ourselves.
 
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (the adorably cute couple from ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’) are reunited on-screen as two idealistic twentysomethings pursuing their flights of fancy.  Sebastian is a talented pianist who aims to keep the torch of traditional improvisational jazz (not the new age elevator "smooth jazz" of Kenny G, that's Keith played by John Legend) burning and to save enough money for his own jazz club someday, while Mia is a lover of classic TCM movies and dreams of becoming an actress and playwright.  The two cross path by chance and, despite their initial feigned indifference and nonchalance toward each other, soon fall madly in love.  While the story is a familiar one, we can’t help but be swept along by their blossoming romance and eventual drifting apart through the four seasons on the strengths of the performances and chemistry between the two engaging leads.  The always endearing Emma Stone had never shone brighter and is an utter delight to watch, proving once again why I've been a fan since first seeing her in 'Zombieland' and 'Easy A.'  Just listen to her half of the wistful ditty below:



Evoking the kind of movie magic all too rare these days, ‘La La Land’ is an exercise in pure whimsical fantasy but is also irresistibly charming and sweet.  The original songs and musical score from composer Justin Hurwitz and the dance numbers by choreographer (not to be confused with the singer) Mandy Moore are Oscar-caliber, eliciting feelings from joy to melancholy, and the film's bittersweet “what might have been" epilogue is a sublime masterpiece of such heart-wrenching beauty and tenderness that only elevated its poignancy and resonance.  Light on its feet but heavy on our hearts,  'La La Land’ is a stunning cinematic musical tour de force that appeals to the hopeless romantic in all of us and makes our hearts swoon.  Now that's entertainment!  Have a safe and happy new year, my friends.
Grade: A+
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