By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S LA LA LAND ABOUT?
An aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician fall in love and inspire each other artistically.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A)
Featuring truly dazzling film-making and strong performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, La La Land is an enchanting blend of modern and retro. Taking place in present-day Los Angeles, but made in the style of classic Hollywood musicals, it's a delight. The leads are merely passable as vocalists, but strong as actors and dancers. Their undeniable chemistry, combined with the sensibilities of writer-director Damien Chazelle (who places one foot in bittersweet reality and the other in whimsical fantasy) make for an unforgettable cinematic experience. The songs, choreography, wardrobe, production design, editing, and cinematography are top-shelf. It could use a bit tighter pacing and the ending may divide some audiences (I thought it was beautiful), but this unconventional love story is a must-see.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
La La Land is rated PG-13. It has one f-word and a few moderate profanities, along with two vulgar hand gestures. Swimsuits and dresses reveal legs, abdomens, and mild cleavage (frankly it's no more revealing than what's shown in old Gene Kelly movies if you go back and re-watch them). There's some drinking at Hollywood parties. Some couples dance sensually in the background, but it's not raunchy or explicit. A man and woman kiss and live together; we see them cuddling fully clothed in bed. There is no sexuality.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Be grateful for the people who inspire you. Pursue your dreams with tenacity and integrity. The direction your life takes hinges on the decisions you make; choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who believe in you but also hold you accountable.
If you dug the singing and dancing in La La Land, watch On the Town with your family! One of my favorite musicals, this combines legends Frank Sinatra, Vera Ellen, and Gene Kelly. So much fun!
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.