Confession time: I don’t think that La La Land does nearly as good a job at creating great musical moments as it should, given its nature as a musical and its fantastic direction. I’m not too fond of many of the song-and-dance numbers throughout the film (including the one above), although that mostly comes down to my personal taste in soundtracks. So why am I even talking about La La Land here? Well, because of the brief moment of pure awe as Emma Stone walks out from the bathroom and re-enters the party. I love moments that build in conjunction with the music that contextualizes them, and this 30 second moment does this unbelievably well. Emma Stone’s steps as she walks toward the camera are choreographed with every beat of the swelling score, and the choice to cut out all other noises in the scene encapsulates us in her lonely world. Then there’s the one edit, which is honestly one of the most powerful single cuts I have seen in recent memory. The stark contrast between the red behind Emma Stone and the snowy blue in front is just plain striking. I could go into what this might symbolize in terms of what the her character is feeling, but truth be told, that’s not really what makes this moment great. It’s the sheer impact of the edit—the way it’s timed perfectly as the lower horns pick up the song’s pace—that makes the moment work for me.
…and that’s why it is one of my favorite musical moments in cinema.