Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Tom Everett Scott, JK Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Plot: A chance meeting between an aspiring actress (Stone) and a jazz pianist (Gosling) turns into a sprawling romance across the Los Angeles cityscape told through original songs and an explosive jazz score.
What Works: There’s a LOT to like here. First, the film just looks incredible. Everything from the set design to the costumes to the cinematography, this is one of the most beautifully put together, well shot films of the year, if not the best. The music, from the jazz score to the songs composed by Pasek and Paul, highlight how just original this film is. Daringly original. This was a huge risk, and it pays off in spades. It’s such a throwback. When Gosling and Stone were dancing, I couldn’t help but be taken back to films like Singin In the Rain and An American In Paris. Gosling and Stone are a great couple, and fully engaging the whole film. It’s interesting that they’re in the Oscar conversation. I think they’re both terrific, and it’s a testament to just how good they are that they’re up against some heavy hitters in really dark dramas. Damien Chazelle, coming off of Whiplash, has proved just how incredible he really is as a director. He is one of the new directors that is the future of film making. Hopefully, he won’t sell out and start directing Marvel or Star Wars films, and continues to push himself artistically.
What Doesn’t Work: Despite all that, I can’t help but think the film did have some slight pacing issues. We’re talking slight, like maybe a 5 minute trim? There were a few scenes that went on just a little too long for me. Maybe it was me just wanting to get to another song, but my one problem is that this film, as pretty as it is, as original as it is, still suffers a bit in the editing room. It moves so well at the beginning, that as it starts to slow in the late-middle, you notice a bit. Then it picks up at the end, and you almost forget about it.
Final Word: Honestly, the pacing issues aren’t enough to stop me from giving this film an A, because everything else about this film is so over the top great. I fully expect this to be in my Top 10 of the year, and I’m dying to see what Chazelle has next up his sleeve.
Final Grade: A