Directed by Damien Chazelle
I should come clean about something before getting into my brief review. I generally dislike musicals. The singing and dancing tend to take me out of the moment leaving me detached from the story. I can’t seem to resolve the dissonance between the “real” of the film and the “extravagance” of the singing and dancing. Ahhh it’s good to get that off my chest. I’m sorry Grease, I don’t like you.
With that on the table, this was going to be a tough sell, regardless of how much awards buzz surrounded the movie. Which meant that, for me, the first quarter of this film did me no favours. And although I genuinely enjoyed the nonlinear nature of the first act I was very much put off by how much they leaned into the show tunes. Fortunately, as the film progressed the filmmakers eased off the gas a bit and started to embrace a style of music that not only fit the film narratively but actually enhanced the emotional impact of certain key scenes. I’m speaking of course about the jazz. In a lot of ways it’s the anchor, musically, that this film needed. It’s such a flexible style of music and because of that I wasn’t drawn out of the story like a traditional musical. Instead I was actually pulled further into the performances. It opened a window into the raw emotions of the two leads that I thought was very effective.
Speaking of the leads, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are wonderful here. The two of them have electric chemistry. Without their powerful connection this movie would fall flat on its face. It’s their relationship that drives the film and not only is it believable but you can’t help but root for a happy ending for these two. Beyond that, they are both talented performers that gracefully execute their song and dance routines. How are regular guys supposed to compete in a world where Ryan Gosling is not only an amazing actor but also seemingly a great dancer and musician? And something similar can be said for Emma Stone, who keeps getting better with every film.
I enjoyed most of this movie and overall I think its deserving of much of the awards praise it's been receiving. The first half was hard for me to get into but once they substituted the show tunes for a more interesting musical choice, I was in. It’s a joyful film that, because of its throwback feel, manages to take you back to a simpler time, even in a contemporary setting.
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