To win People's Choice at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival means someone did something right. The opening scene is a huge traffic jam on an L.A. freeway. A realistically diverse mix of people climb out of their vehicles and start a giant dance, a la "Fame." This is only the first of many scenes where writer/director Damien Chazelle (Oscar nomination for "Whiplash") pays homage with a tip of the hat to well-known and much-loved cinematic moments.
This PG-13 film has so much to recommend it I scarcely know where to start. I think I'll first mention the two lead actors, then talk about some of the elements. We watch:
Now I want to talk about the film. This is clearly a fantastical Los Angeles from the get-go, but we love seeing familiar sights: The freeways; the movie sound-stages; the Griffith Observatory; The Angels' Flight; the pier at Long Beach; the Lighthouse restaurant at Hermosa Beach; the overlook above the city lights; Chateau Marmont; plus other venues that will be recognizable only to locals and purists. Not being either one, I must thank generous hosts who have taken me to these memorable spots while visiting. Thanks!
The romantic dance between our two leads evokes memories of Astaire/Charisse in "Bandwagon," while the waterside scene reminded me of Kelly/Caron by the Seine in "American in Paris." The movie sets hinted at "Singin' in the Rain" and the balloons gave me a flashback to the Audrey Hepburn fashion shoot in "Funny Face." The silhouettes made me think of "Jailhouse Rock" and the four gals dancing brought back "Sweet Charity." Guess who grew up on old-fashioned movie musicals!
Okay, you know the drill, Boy meets Girl, Boy loves Girl, Boy Loses... Oh, just buy a ticket. You'll see bittersweet moments, along with moments of pure joy. You will be treated to great jazz, wonderful scenery, a haunting musical theme, terrific acting, great choreography, and a longing for Do-overs!