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La La Land

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Apr 25, 2017
La La Land

"La La Land," Damien Chazelle's love letter to old-school musicals, offered up with a modern twist, arrives on home video with this combination Blu-ray/DVD release, complete with a hefty helping of extras.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz-obsessed musician looking to save his beloved musical form from modernity -- quite the opposite of Chazelle does with the musical movie genre, when you think about it. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress whose dreams are on the verge of being crushed by a relentless, fruitless roundelay of auditions that lead nowhere. The two meet cute -- or, really, meet hostile -- but eventually warm up to each other. John Legend plays a more forward-looking jazz musician, Keith, who gives Sebastian a dream gig, and J.K. Simmons cameos as a crabby boss who fires Sebastian for his inability to confine his piano playing to soulless sanitized Christmas standards.

The disc's extras delve into every nook and cranny of the film's production in a series of featureless that can be played sequentially or one by one. Among the tidbits of trivia we learn are that Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz (who have also worked together on other films) were college roommates and. later, members of the same band; Gosling, who played no piano before signing on to the film, learned the instrument so quickly and so well that plans for a piano double were scrapped; and the movie was initially budgeted at less than a million dollars. Other extras explore how the film gave rise to Chazelle's hit "Whiplash," a less-than-in-depth look at how this is the third time Gosling and Stone have headlined the same film, and the director and composer showing off the film's songs in demo form. Another option presents the film's musical numbers, allowing the viewer to choose and enjoy favorites from the opening freeway number to the long "fantasy ballet" that closes out the picture.

Much is made of the spectacular opening sequence's freeway ramp dance number, as seems proper, so when it comes time to listen to the audio commentary track -- in which Chazelle and Hurwitz josh each other with dry wit -- it's a shock to learn that the freeway dance came close to being excised. (What they did lose -- and this makes more sense -- was a three-minute overture.)

"La La Land" on Blu-ray probably won't convert any of the film's naysayers, but those who enjoy the bite of its more realistic take on love and romance -- and how those things intersect with professional ambition -- will only appreciate Chazelle's accomplishment, and his callbacks to musicals of yore, all the more.


"La La Land"
Blu-ray/DVD
$39.99
http://www.lionsgate.com

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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