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'La La Land': 'A Dose of Well-Needed Sunshine'

© 2016 Summit Entertainment, LLC
"La La Land" tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts.

La La Landmade Golden Globe history this past weekend – winning 7 awards, including best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture, best actor and actress and musical score. But, whether it will continue its success at the Oscars remains to be seen.

Paying homage to MGM’s golden age of movie musicals, classics such as Singing In the Rain, Funny Face and An American in Paris are just a few of La La Land's inspirations. There’s singing, dancing, piano playing, painted sets and a star-studded cast.


"I think that this movie delivers a dose of well-needed sunshine in a way at this time in human history," says film contributor and arts and entertainment editor at the Shepherd Express, Dave Luhrssen.

At it's core, the film is "a good musical - one that people still think about - usually has a compelling story of some sort," he says. Although Luhrssen admits that the performances by both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's characters would have been made "more memorable" with stronger vocals, their chemistry is apparent on screen.

As the first original modern musical, Luhrssen admits it cannot measure up to the classics partly because Hollywood simply does not have any prominent musical composers anymore.

"We really don't have a Rodgers & Hammerstein or Rodgers & Hart or the great people you think of when you look back at the musicals that we remember," he explains. "Most of the great musicals were written by towering figures of 20th century music, after all."

However, the original songs by Justin Hurwitz, along with the direction of Damien Chazelle, help the audience escape into a fantasy. "This is really kind of part of human culture," Luhrssen notes.

He also hopes that La La Land will awaken new audiences to the musicals of the past and encourage greater creativity.

"I welcome the efforts of talented people to try and revive the medium of musicals in Hollywood, and I hope that there will be more talented people working on Broadway in future years than has been the case often lately," Luhrssen says.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.