On its surface, the newest feature from director Damien Chazelle may not appeal to everyone. The musical genre has always faced a challenge finding an unbiased audience who find the song and dance routine irritating and unimportant. Chazelle, however, has managed to find a way to breathe fresh life into a genre slowly spiraling downwards from the pedestal it maintained during the classic Hollywood era. Although it is set in the present day, the film is flooded with mementos calling back to a time when the genre flourished, all converging the two star-crossed lovers at the center of it all.
Gosling and Stone are reunited as a couple for the third time onscreen (After 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad in 2013). This time around, they play an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician, respectively, who come together in an inauspicious twist of fate, sending these lovebirds on a journey throughout Los Angeles that will test their passion for their art and towards one another, often times having to prioritize one over the other. Their relationship is far from the “perfect” pairing that musicals normally present to viewers. It is not a love-at-first-sight meeting; in fact, it is only after several lucky run-ins that their chemistry begins to take form.
What really sets this film apart from other musicals is it’s uncompromising realism with the subject material. While there are certainly moments that feel fantastical, the overall tone is less than cheerful. These characters are faced with real struggles, and they feel real to the audience. This is not the type of musical where it’s clear that everything will work out right from the beginning number. Neither Sebastian (Gosling) or Mia (Stone) are willing to compromise their dreams, even if it means putting a strain on their relationship with one another. The choice between one’s dreams and one’s relationships is nothing that audiences are unfamiliar with, and in this sense the characters are much more easily relatable. Every viewer will be able to find something to love in this movie, which is not something that can be normally said about musicals.
After the success of last year’s Whiplash at the Oscars, Chazelle looks to be on the road to making another appearance at the Academy Awards for the second year in a row, this time possibly leaving with the Best Picture award. Before that, however, the film is set to make a stunning impact at the 74th Golden Globe Awards, where it is currently the film with the most nominations, totaling seven altogether. For a musical film in this day and age, that’s impressive. It may be too early to say, but it seems as though Chazelle has brought the genre back into the public’s perspective, taking it down new paths and new directions that are as intriguing as they are exciting. Within the first five minutes, audiences everywhere will be hooked on the intoxicating musical performances, sung and choreographed to perfection in what could quite possibly be this year’s most aesthetically visual film.