Damien Chazelle / Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend / RomCom-Musical / 2017 / 12A / 128mins
Remember when musicals ruled Hollywood? When men and women tapped away on tabletops and swung on lampposts in the rain? Fear not, for those heady days have made a sparkling return – La La Land‘s in town and it’s ready to pummel you with pure, unadulterated nostalgia.
Scuttling along the bottom rung of Hollywood society is Mia (Emma Stone), a woman who dreams of becoming an actress. A series of events mean she frequently stumbles across failing jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). With a song here and a song there, the two seem inseparable, but to achieve their own dreams they must realise that destiny might not have in store the future they desire.
Certain cities are freely associated with emotion and art, and none more so on film than New York and Paris. To see the concrete expanse of Los Angeles become a thing of beauty is impressive, but it’s down to the work of Damien Chazelle. He captures every last inch of golden, shimmering detail. Hell, even the title is fantastic (both referring to the city and the protagonists’ mindsets).
The lavish set design, costumes and colour scheme all create a mesmerising vision of LA – it’s quite clearly Chazelle’s love-letter to the hits of the bygone Golden Era. A love story not just between two people, but a love story to the City of Angels, music, film… there’s a lot of love, man.
Stones’s Mia is palpably peak-Stone – a bundle of joy littered with sarcasm and emotional triumphs. Good, it works, fun and games is what La La Land is all about. Less can be said about Gosling. He seems to tone down his Big Short character for Sebastian (a prick in shining armour) but credit is due for his piano work.
Speaking of music, the songs are hella good. I was tapping throughout, caught up in the jazz – the highs, the lows and every nook and cranny in between.
Alas, La La Land is no straightforward song and dance. Whilst a fantastic feat of choreographed cinema, the opening scene bugs me. It has no relevance to the plot whatsoever. This theme prevails for the next major song when Mia and her friends get ready for a night out. On top of that, the obvious lip-syncing becomes an irritable distraction. It’s a slow opening and the film doesn’t kick off till Mia and Sebastian meet.
La La Land was so overhyped it actually killed it for me. I struggled to look past the fact that this was a very good film and not an AMAZING film, so much so that I came out thinking large swathes of the movie were in fact just average.
In short, how La La Land is filmed is second to none. How the story holds together is a different matter. Despite it’s pitfalls, there’s a magical quality that rarely comes around (plus partners of the male kind won’t get bored). But ask yourself – could Fred Astaire have done better? Could Gene Kelly have done better? Yes and yes. Just because they ‘don’t make ’em like this anymore’ doesn’t mean they should.
Film as a Film – 4 / Target Audience – 5 / General Audience – 3
La La Land is in cinemas now
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