La La Land: Film Review
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Director: Damien Chazelle
The director of Whiplash delivers an homage to love and musicals that's all rush and very little drag, while reuniting stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for the third time (after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad).
Stone is Mia, an aspiring actress stuck in the role of a barista on the WB lot and frustrated in auditions; Gosling is Seb, a jazz enthusiast and purist piano player who dreams of setting up a club in the crummy dive which threw him out, but whose ambition is thwarted by bosses who want him to play the set list and nothing more.
The pair meet by chance a couple of times in the kind of coincidence that some would garner as fate and over the period of a year, told via Chazelle's four-seasons-in-one-film on screen titles, begin a gentle romance that's threatened by ambitions, reality and life itself.
La La Land is a bright, breezy, colourful homage to musicals of the past and a Hollywood of yesteryear.
It sets its store out in its very first opening moments, where a crowded LA freeway is turned into a free-wheeling fully choreographed dance number where car residents frolick on bonnets, in the road and on rooves with such abandon that it's impossible not to be carried along with the Another Day of Sun song.
Bathed in retro primary colours and nods to the Hollywood of the past (Mia's apartment has an Ingrid Bergman mural and The Black Cat poster), Chazelle's attempted to recapture the joie de vivre of the great musicals and the spectacles that were once so common place, but are now sneered at. Even throwing in some meta lines about whether people will love it or not, to which one character retorts "F*** them", La La Land is a throw everything at it piece, where a great amount brilliantly sticks.
This is cinema to swoon at, cinema to fall in love to and a film where the leads have the chemistry that's needed to pull through some of the slightly dodgier singing numbers they're gifted. They don't make movies like this anymore, and it's good they don't - because when one like this comes along, it knocks your cinematic socks off.
But while La La Land is a film of dreamers, it's also bathed in a sad melancholy that ebbs and flows with the tide of life as the year of their romance plays out and reality comes heartbreakingly knocking.
Stone and Gosling make the perfect pair, even if the second half of the film grounds their romance in tensions and drama as the rows grow between following your heart and your dream and dealing with the harsh realities of life. They are the dreamers many of us wish to be, and their ease of chemistry and tonic of romance feels beautiful to behold.
Consequently, it's the nostalgic escapism of Broadway swathed in the visual opulence of the past - but more crucially, La La Land is the tonic to the festive season - a timeless romance, swept up in the romance of dreaming, and all wrapped in a bright colour palette and with such heart, that it's impossible not to fall in love with La La Land - and fall hard.