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A light-hearted drama which provides a reminder as to why musicals used to be a staple in Hollywood’s golden age.
Review (with Spoilers)
Mia (Emma Stone) & Sebastian (Ryan Gosling)
A struggling actress and a struggling jazz pianist. One too many chance encounters lead them to actual pursue each other’s company and make a vested interest in each other. But, like with any film dealing with romance, as things change, dreams are realized or die, can the relationship still survive?
With no shade to Ryan Gosling, this movie was really about Stone. Her charm was on high, those big doe eyes of hers were in full effect, and she had the same comic appeals which made her a star in Easy A. Though what really made this a highlight is Stone wasn’t tasked with trying to break the mold on what we know her for and as. What I mean by that is, she isn’t suddenly trying to pull a Tilda Swinton or Meryl Streep out of her back pocket. She pushes the boundary of what we may expect from her, but not so much that it would look like she is trying to prove something. Like, this film doesn’t seem like she is out here trying to prove she is a serious actress who shouldn’t be pigeonholed. She knows what she is good at and expands on what we are used to seeing by adding song and dance numbers. Alongside giving a bit more depth to her character than we are used to. Allowing you more so to ease into the idea that she may not always choose to be a goof ball, romantic interest, or the supporting role to a stronger character.
The Dance and Music Numbers
To be honest, I wasn’t walking into this movie thinking or knowing it was a musical. I knew Stone would be singing music and Gosling would play a piano, but I wasn’t expecting at least 5 or 6 verbal songs and a lot of jazz music. On top of that, I wasn’t expecting tap dance numbers and things of that nature. But, let me tell you, they were such a welcomed surprise. For while Gosling you expect to be adept at it since he grew up in the house of mouse, Stone does seem like the type with two left feet and who sings off pitch for fun. Plus, you’d kind of expect her to be tone deaf.
Truth is, Stone gives as good as Gosling when it comes to the dance numbers and watching them move together reminds you why, for decades, one of the main exports out of Hollywood were grandeur musicals. For the songs, oh the songs. Whether Gosling’s jazz music, of which a song or two feature John Legend, or listening to Stone sing, you could go from something that makes you want to groove, to perhaps cry, and maybe even want a nap. It’s such a whirlwind that you do get to understand why so many nominations are being announced for this movie and why it is being awarded accolades.
One Key Question About Them Goes Unanswered
Conflict is necessary in any movie and with romantic movies, the conflict is usually somewhere out of left field and is usually the low point. This movie, despite everything else, is no different. The problem is, why we are made aware of what may have caused the major rift, but there is no exact detail. Did they grow apart, did their careers just consume so much of their time they broke up and decided to become friends? Friends which kept aware of what the other was doing but didn’t have much communication (think friends you had in high school or college you are connected with on social media but never speak to). This isn’t answered. We are just teased with a possible way the movie could end which for some maybe unrealistic.
If I was to be perfectly honest, if Stone wins an award for this it is because of her doing a golden age of Hollywood-style musical and because of her charm. Acting wise, while this character has more depth and consistent growth than her past roles, she isn’t at that point yet where she really grabs you. She is still is one of the most entertaining actresses of this generation, but this is but a taste of what is to come more so than perhaps the best she may ever put out there. As for Gosling, he kind of is forgettable. The movie does its best to keep him from being a second fiddle with bringing in a sister for him, an old friend in John Legend’s character and giving him a life outside Mia, but ultimate Stone eclipses him in almost all aspects outside of the song and dance numbers. In those moments, they are equals and they make this movie more than just another romantic film. They remind you of the actors of yore who could sing, dance, act, and tell a quality joke. Something sorely missed and why I fully expect to probably watch this more than once in my lifetime.