The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
F. Murray Abraham,
WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Aspiring actress serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and jazz musician Sebastian scrapes by playing cocktail-party gigs in dingy bars. But as success mounts, they are faced with decisions that fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. Written by
There was a time I remember, sometime during the mid-to-late '90s, when the idea of watching a musical was laughable. It was a silly trend that was once popular with the movie-going audience back when cinema was relatively primitive, which saw a kitschy revival in the '70s and '80s with the likes of Grease (1978) and Xanadu (1980), but died a death when the rapid evolution of CGI made anything possible on screen. Then came Moulin Rouge! and its use of modernised classic tunes in 2001, and movie-goers have been in love with the genre again ever since. Its popularity shows no sign of stopping either, and writer/director Damien Chazelle, who made a big impression in 2014 with the excellent Whiplash, has sculpted one of the best musicals of recent times with the Oscar-nominated La La Land, a film that manages to feel both traditional and contemporary.
The film combines two elements clearly dear to Chazelle: The lavish musicals of the 1950s (and to a lesser degree the '40s), and pure jazz. The two wandering souls at the story's centre dream of leaving their mark in their respected fields, but both are in love with the past in industries always looking forward. Actress Mia (Emma Stone) spends time between humiliating and soul-crushing auditions serving coffee near a studio lot, where she occasionally crosses paths with a glamorous star as the rest of the room whisper excitedly. Musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) cannot resist ignoring the festive playlist at his restaurant haunt in favour of some improvisation on the piano - much to the annoyance of his boss Bill (J.K. Simmons) - while he dreams of opening his own traditional jazz bar. Sebastian is quick- tempered, neurotic, and plain rude, but Mia pursues him anyway. They fall in love, and express their feelings through impromptu song-and- dance routines.
Chazelle knows the genre inside out, and seems to favour the lavish MGM musicals and the glamorous physicality of the era's stars such as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Opening with a near one-shot song-and-dance routine, beautifully photographed by Linus Sandgren, it goes on to deliver many dazzling and classical numbers, which are often glorious to behold and backed by a soundtrack of memorable tunes that manage to stay in your head for days afterwards. They are performed admirably by the central pair, who have real chemistry. One of the few saving graces of the Amazing Spider-Man films was the chemistry between Stone and Andrew Garfield, and here she sizzles with Gosling. It's the movie's main strength. Rather than merely go through the motions and familiar tropes, you really want them to be together. You can truly feel their happiness every time they see each other.
La La Land stutters when exploring deeper, more complex themes. The second act sees the two achieve some degree of success, with Mia developing a one-woman show and Sebastian joining up with a fellow musician played by John Legend in a band making waves in the world of jazz. Will Mia ultimately degrade herself in order to make it in a brutal industry that may not deserve her, and how can Sebastian, a hardcore old-schooler, be happy in a flashy group looking to move the genre forward? It seems like a poor excuse to simply tear the couple apart to experience their inevitable rough patch, and doesn't really fully explore the characters' emotional quandaries. But this slight lag doesn't last for very long, and the final moments are simply perfect. One of the great things about Whiplash was that final, heart- pounding moment of physical and spiritual triumph, and La La Land wraps up the story with grace and genuine tugs on the heartstrings. proving itself to be much more than a mere homage.
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