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Cinema Signal: Dance and romance with a drop of sadness. MOBILE version |
. "La La Land"

Probably the most daring romantic musical I've seen, any concerns about the experimental nature of this film fantasy is blown away by the sheer talent and attractiveness of the stars. One simply doesn't tire of watching Emma Stone ("Birdman") and Ryan Gosling ("The Big Short") no matter the vehicle.

Set in the Los Angeles of a prior time, writer-director Damien Chazelle of "Whiplash" fame starts out with one of the craziest settings for a music and dance fantasy number, the better part of a mile of cars on a freeway (or ramp) loaded with dancers, acrobats, singers, etc. who pull off a sensational piece of entertainment on a huge scale that incorporates an opening whiff of a relationship to-be.

That would be freeway drivers Sebastion (Gosling) and Mia (Stone) who have lane problems and some destiny.

Besides the dance and the romance, the film also makes a strong statement about the shrinking state of jazz -- that sound that came out of New Orleans and worked its way to Chicago, New York and Paris -- when it was as fresh and new as the beats in our dream couple's hearts.

Chazelle goes out of his way to make a case for it -- what it is, why it should be appreciated, collected and followed, and what it can become going forward. He obviously means his promotion of it to be a major takeaway (to use the jargon of the pundit crowd) from the film. It should warm the hearts of inveterate lovers of Jazz fans who can only hope the message resonates. Places like Spotify would be a good followup for those who become interested.

Sebastian's dream in life is a jazz club he'll call Seb's; hers is movie and stage stardom. And, here comes the SPOILER, folks, so if you haven't seen "La La Land," skip the following:

The pursuit of the dreams by these two ambitious people leads to the kind of last act resolution you don't wish for. But this is no 1940s musical and how it all ends departs from the idealistic happy ending, trading it for a resolution that might well be truer to reality. The trouble is that all the while Chazelle's been putting you into a mood of happy Hollywood fantasy. You're not ready for a cold shower. You have to gulp down the kind of sadness life dishes out and concentrate on the good time feelings. After getting over being bummed out.

If you've been a bad boy or girl and read that last paragraph without having seen the film, I'll add that I'd rather have seen this bravely unusual film for its stars and stylish originality than not. You can do a lot worse than two hours of Stone and Gosling weaving into and out of mixed genre surreality.

I also confess that before I saw it, I didn't expect it would go down so smooth.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Ryan Gosling (Seb) and Emma Stone (Mia)
During a lesson in jazz.

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