Spoiler alert – this is a really good movie. From the opening dance number to the epilogue, this is a movie that shows amazing passion in every facet – the music, the acting, the writing, the cinematography, the lighting, the directing. It’s one of those movies that was meant to be watched in the theatre to appreciate its full scope.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are on their A game here. Emma portrays Mia Dolan, a barista who is desperately trying to become an actress. I found her acting mesmerizing, even in the scenes she is auditioning. She covered a full range for this movie, including singing and dancing. Ryan Gosling is convincing as Sebastian Wilder, a passionate jazz piano player who dreams of owning his own club. The fact that he practiced four hours a day to be able to play the piano for this movie shows his dedication to his craft.
Damien Chazelle directed the film Whiplash before this one. While also a movie based on music, I didn’t enjoy it due to the unlikeable characters. But that movie did prove that he knew how to make a movie. It opened the door for a studio to trust him with this script and this vision. I could see the passion in this film, and that only happens when a director is not only passionate but also able to get everyone else on board with that passion. He’s worthy of best director on this. Justin Hurwitz, Damien’s college roommate, is no less passionate on writing a score. Teamed with Pasek and Paul, the music and lyrics dazzle and the dance routines are fun to watch.
There are scenes that I couldn’t help but feel the magic of. One is when Gosling and Stone’s characters hold hands for the first time. It’s so gradual and delicate. Their hands fill the screen so that all focus is on this moment. They kiss throughout the movie (who doesn’t see that coming), but this is the most intimate moment for me. Most films don’t pursue a scene like this. The dancing in the observatory, the audition turned song number (probably my favorite lyrics of the whole thing), and the closing epilogue just shine.
The romance in this film is a joy to behold when it is radiant, and painful to watch when it is strained. It enhances a strong message in this movie – pursuing your dreams. No doubt it takes courage to travel to Hollywood as even these actors must have done at some point, looking for that break and never giving up when it didn’t come.
How does that translate for a follower of Christ? For me, it comes back to the passion this movie and its characters exude. It is discouraging to have a passion for something, only to see the world chip away at it, either through running you down or tempting you with compromise. I wonder how often that happens with my relationship with Jesus – does my passion for Him grow, does the romance hold when it doesn’t feel romantic? Ultimately, these characters bend on their passions but do not break. The comforting thought of following Jesus is that He is far more passionate to complete His work in me than I am. He will not let me end my story in failure.
I enjoyed this movie experience. It was fun, and it forced me to digest it afterwards, which is a mark of a good movie for me.