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La La Land

Film: La La Land

Starring: Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys) and Emma Stone (Birdman)

Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

U.S. Release: December 16th, 2016 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Musical

Runtime: 128 minutes

This year's Philadelphia Film Festival captured a gem for its 25th anniversary Opening Night selection. Damien Chazelle follows up his highly regarded Best Picture Nominee, Whiplash, with his dazzling sophomore effort, La La Land. Nostalgic and full of passion, the film pays its respects to old Hollywood all while providing a fresh vibe that will be difficult for any competitor to topple during the upcoming awards season. So if you're in search of an early Best Picture frontrunner, look no further than La La Land.

Mia's (Emma Stone) lifelong dream is to be a respected actress in Hollywood. But as the Nevada native experiences the ego-crushing defeat of Los Angeles' cutthroat audition process, she falls for a Jazz pianist named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who hopes of one-day running a club of his own. And while the pair of starry-eyed romantics fall madly in love with one another, the weight of their relationship makes it difficult staying committed to their dreams.

From the opening number all the way to its monumental finale, La La Land consumes its viewers with an extraordinary combination of a wonderfully composed score, intricate choreography, towering performances and tastefully advanced direction. Damien Chazelle is beyond deserving for a Best Director nod as his immaculate vision comes to life on the big screen. Six years in the making, Chazelle and his composer, Justin Hurwitz, used this abundance of time and patience to hone the story and fine-tune their music. This precise attention to detail spills through each and every scene as La La Land serves as a testament to originality and a shining example of its own greatest storyline, devoted passion to achieving ones dreams.

Not only are the film's direction and melodic score an absolute marvel, La La Land's lead co-stars are enchanting in their own right. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling offer a unique chemistry that breathes authenticity into their onscreen romance. The film can't capture all of its engaging essence without a sharply convincing love story, and boy do they deliver! This magical romance is reminiscent of legendary cinematic duos such as Bogart and Bacall or Tracy and Hepburn, while they naturally fall in line as a contemporary equivalence. And although Emma Stone's character is written with more depth and layers by comparison - which may be enough to tip the scales in her favor in this year's Best Actress race - it wouldn't be a surprise to hear Gosling's name called as an Oscar finalist as well.

Hollywood adores movies about the industry and La La Land uses this cachet to mold together the aura of classic cinema with a vibrant and updated appeal. It's challenging to identify a single glaring weakness within the film, making it destined for a justifiably successful awards season run. It's important to note that musicals aren't for everyone, but La La Land's transcends this generic label thanks to an infectious passion for the arts that makes you wish you could create something as everlasting as the film itself. Consequently, La La Land stands as one of 2016's finest offerings and it's clear-cut must-see effort from one of Hollywood's fastest-rising filmmakers.

Stars: 4 stars out of 4

Grade: A


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