The Films of Damien Chazelle
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
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La La Land (January 10/17)
An engaging yet far-from-flawless modern musical, La La Land follows fledgling performers Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) as they meet cute and eventually fall in love - with the movie subsequently detailing the ups and downs of the pair's relationship and career struggles. It's clear almost immediately that the style and charm with which writer/director Damien Chazelle has infused the proceedings can't entirely compensate for an absence of compelling, memorable musical numbers, with the film's inability to provide any stirring examples of such in evidence right from its highly energetic yet hopelessly underwhelming pre-credits interlude (which follows a group of talented extras as they belt out a completely bland ditty on a crowded highway overpass). La La Land's first half is likewise overflowing with impeccably staged but utterly uninvolving sequences, and it's clear that the film doesn't start to improve until the focus shifts to the burgeoning relationship between Gosling and Stone's respective characters - with the strength of the actors' scenes together undoubtedly heightened by their palpable romantic chemistry. The newfound dramatic heft paves the way for a final third that's far more engrossing and captivating than one might've anticipated, which, when coupled with a magical, mesmerizing closing stretch, ultimately ensures that La La Land concludes on a high note that just about compensates for the ineffectiveness of its first act.