Aspiring filmmaker and recent Harvard graduate Damien Chazelle moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to follow his dream of making movies only to find the initial journey to be a difficult one. Six years later, his dream has been realized and his journey will be reflected in his upcoming musical “La La Land,” which will be released nationwide on Dec. 16.
Chazelle broke onto the scene two years ago with the movie “Whiplash” (R), which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, winning the U.S. Grand Jury Prize, the most prestigious award at the the festival. It would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards a year later, including one for best picture, winning for best supporting actor (J.K. Simmons), best film editing and best sound mixing.
Chazelle said in a phone interview with the Deseret News that “La La Land” was a movie he wrote before “Whiplash,” but he wasn’t able to get funding or support for the project until after the success of “Whiplash.”
Seeing “La La Land” come to life was a dream come true for Chazelle that he said still has him in a bit of a daze.
“I remember the first day the camera started rolling, I felt like, ‘Wow. OK, they haven’t pulled the plug yet. It’s actually happening.’ It was a magical moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” Chazelle said.
The story in the movie follows two dreamers in Los Angeles. Emma Stone plays a aspiring actress named Mia while Ryan Gosling plays an aspiring jazz musician named Sebastian. The two characters cross paths and start a relationship where together they learn about following their dreams and the positive and negative consequences that can come with that journey.
In writing the movie, Chazelle said that he wanted to make a musical that would capture the magic of the Golden Age musicals from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s that he enjoyed as a kid with the various colors, sets, costumes and energy present in those movies while incorporating modern, updated themes that can resonate with audiences today.
Stone and Gosling perform their own singing and dancing and didn't have professional voice-overs and stand-ins. Chazelle also said that there is no piano double for Gosling as Gosling trained for four months to be able perform all the piano pieces that his character plays in the film.
“La La Land” is rated PG-13 for some language. It had its worldwide premier at the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 31 and has gone onto screens at various film festivals, including the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. It is scheduled for a limited release on Dec. 9, expanding nationwide the following weekend on Dec. 16.
The movie has received high praise from critics so far, currently holding a 95 percent "certified fresh" approval on movie review aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com as of Tuesday afternoon. It is seen by many, including writers from IndieWire.com and AwardsCircuit.com, as one of the front-runners to win best picture at the upcoming Academy Awards.