Song of the Day #3,091: ‘City of Stars’ – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

la_la_landNo film this year is burdened with higher expectations than La La Land. First off, the latest film by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle has to live up to its predecessor. It has been named the best of the year by several national publications and designated the Oscar Best Picture front-runner. Some have even called the musical a perfect antidote for the election of Donald Trump.

That’s a lot to live up to. And La La Land, mostly, pulls it off.

To get the “mostly” out of the way: It’s not as good as Whiplash, it runs about 15 minutes too long, and (see previous point) some of its musical numbers feel flat and unnecessary.

But why dwell on the imperfections when there’s so much worth celebrating?

All great films, especially musicals, succeed because of individual scenes. I can’t remember the last time I watched Moulin Rouge all the way through, but I’ve sure watched the ‘Your Song’ and ‘Elephant Medley’ scenes enough to know them by heart.

La La Land has enough great scenes to make it a great movie.

Start with the electrifying one-take opener, in which a freeway full of gridlocked commuters break into song and dance before settling back into their vehicles. Then you have the charming pas de deux by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (perfectly matched, again, as young lovers) against a Los Angeles skyline at dusk, where everybody up to (and probably including) them knows they are falling in love.

Surprisingly, I was less transported by the scene featured in all the ads, where the pair literally take flight against a starry sky. It’s a lovely moment, but I thought it was done better in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You.

Where La La Land truly takes flight, however, is in its final 15 minutes. As in Whiplash, Chazelle proves he has a knack for blockbuster endings.

Emma Stone delivers a (possible Oscar-winning) audition scene, and then we are treated to a sumptuous re-imagining of the film’s plot that is as exhilarating as it is heartbreaking.

Best film of the year? No, that honor still goes to Moana. But La La Land is definitely up there.

[Sebastian’s Verse: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone]
City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see
Who knows?
I felt it from the first embrace I shared with you
That now our dreams
They’ve finally come true

[Mia’s Verse: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling]
City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants
It’s love
Yes, all we’re looking for is love from someone else
A rush
A glance
A touch
A dance

[Duet: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone]
A look in somebody’s eyes
To light up the skies
To open the world and send it reeling
A voice that says, I’ll be here
And you’ll be alright

I don’t care if I know
Just where I will go
‘Cause all that I need is this crazy feeling
A rat-tat-tat on my heart

[Outro: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone]
Think I want it to stay

City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
You never shined so brightly

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,091: ‘City of Stars’ – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

  1. Dana says:

    I had mixed feelings and expectations going into La La Land. On the positive side, there was my love and appreciation of Whiplash. On the negative side, there were the considerable hype and expectations, as well as a concern that the film might just be too artsy for my personal taste.

    So, the verdict? Loved it, and I’m not sure I would have cut a song or scene. By contrast to Rogue I, which I had seen the day before and which shares about the same running time, I found myself invested and gripped by every moment of La La Land. This film deserves the hype and I would be fine with it taking home the Oscar for Best Picture.

  2. Peg says:

    High praise indeed, can’t wait to see it!

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