LA LA LAND Movie Review & Analysis

LA LA LAND is the story, in musical form, of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who wants to own a jazz club.  While there’s a romance between the two, it’s a deeper story about how goals and ambitions change over time and how certain decisions can alter the course of your life.

What’s key in this movie is that while you may have multiple paths in life and the course of things may change, it doesn’t mean the outcome is worse—it’s just different.  There’s a tendency for movies that show two different paths to make one the ideal but LA LA LAND doesn’t make that mistake.  It shows that happiness doesn’t mean forgetting all that has come before and that our history is what makes us who we are today.

LA LA LAND contrasts a vibrant, technicolor color palette with a more muted one to show the evolution of the characters and their story.  At the beginning, the characters all wear bright colors which seem to jump off the screen.  It feels very larger-than-life and passionate, since passion is at the beginning of any relationship.  As Mia and Sebastian’s relationship and lives evolve, the colors shift into browns and more muted tones.  A great example of the shift that you can watch for is the color of Mia’s bag.  At the beginning notice how she carries a bright, reddish-orange bag and then watch for when the color changes into a dark one.  It doesn’t mean the feelings or story is dark, but represents the maturity that comes with life.

Mia herself is the epitome of life, energy and growth.  In her first real interaction with Sebastian she wears a bright yellow dress with flowers on it. Later, after she moves in with Sebastian, there’s a scene with no fewer than four potted flowering plants in his previously empty apartment—and all appear in the same shot with Mia.  If you compare their apartments you see her vibrancy as well.  Her apartment is packed with people, color and things.  His is stark until she moves in and then slowly things start to change.  

Damien Chazelle, whose 2014 film WHIPLASH won three Oscars, wrote and directed LA LA LAND.  He says he wanted to do a traditional musical in a contemporary way.  It does feel completely timeless and I found myself wondering about the time period before reminding myself that it was present day.  

LA LA LAND pays tribute to an older style of filmmaking in three distinct ways through the cinematography.  First, there are a lot of camera push-ins during which the camera moves closer to the subject, more than we normally see in modern filmmaking. 

Second, there are a lot of long shots without camera cuts.  It puts more pressure on the actors because good takes cannot be pieced together. 

Finally, the third element of stylized cinematography is the use of frequent Swish pans, which is when the camera movement is so fast that everything becomes a blur.   These aren’t styles that are used a lot today and create a distinctive period feel.

Interested in more analysis about LA LA LAND?  Wondering about the Fellini-esque elements and some of the more obscure locations used in the Los Angeles area?  For more about LA LA LAND, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

THE ACCOUNTANT Review & Analysis

THE ACCOUNTANT is about an accountant who is as brilliant with numbers as he is with discretion. Christian Wolff, played by Ben Affleck, has made most of his money as the trusted accountant to cartel leaders and other criminals. In the midst of working a legitimate job he finds a discrepancy that endangers multiple lives. The movie also stars Anna Kendrick, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, JK Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart and Cynthia Addai-Robinson.

The character of Christian is supposed to have Aspergers, which is a high functioning form of Autism. He and the other characters who have this diagnosis alternately made me think their acting was uncomfortably fantastic and wondering if they were going too far. I noticed in the credits that five different people were listed as ‘Autism Consultants’ so I do believe that they worked hard not to make the portrayals caricatures. Overall, I think the acting was really good and that Ben Affleck managed to convey a lot of emotion through very little dialogue. Anna Kendrick shone, though her storyline didn’t do her any favors. Family is a huge theme in the movie and it’s emphasized repeatedly: how important family loyalty is as well as the question of what makes a good parent. There are several parent/child roles in this movie that you can watch for, not just the biological ones, but the ones that can occur in even a boss/employee relationship.

Despite the big theme of family, you can also track the theme of compartmentalization, or more specifically shutting yourself off from things. Instead of cells in jail, there are dividers; there’s a train you can spot going around the Christmas tree during a flashback to Christian’s childhood, Christian keeps an airstream trailer in a storage unit—so a container within a container.

The music was also fantastic. It stood out to me from the very beginning, particularly when it managed to balance the feeling of eeriness without going overboard into cheesy or predictable.

I am really good at suspending my disbelief. I’m very willing to go along with the premise that’s set up, I wouldn’t be in a movie otherwise. But, I was pulled out so many times with regard to how certain characters were treated and even during the big final climax that I had to wonder how someone could have put together a movie that was Oscar-worthy and laughable without noticing the discrepancies. Since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I won’t say more than that, though as always I’m happy to continue the discussion in the comments!

I’ve talked before about movies that don’t seem to know what they want to be and while I think THE ACCOUNTANT was well enough directed and acted to make up for any shortcomings, I think the movie would have done a bit better to decide if it was more suspense or more action. The action was heavier than I’d expected from the previews and I admit that I covered my eyes at two different times. I’m not sure all of it was necessary. That said, the movie is just over two hours long and goes by in a flash.

For more about THE ACCOUNTANT, take a look below…

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

%d bloggers like this: