La La Land review
No point burying the lede. I absolutely adored La La Land. It is beautiful, bittersweet, and incredibly moving. But above everything, it is a whole lot of fun. Never underestimate a film that makes you laugh, cry, and leave the cinema with a beaming smile on your face. La La Land is an old school slice of Hollywood happiness. Bursting with colour, comedy, romance, and catchy tunes you'll be humming for days. A joyous ode to cinema's rich history, riffing on the New Wave films of Jacques Demy, the Technicolor musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age, and tipping it's hat and tapping it's toes in the direction of Casablanca and An American in Paris.
Emma Stone stars as Mia, an aspiring actress going from one dehumanising audition after another. She works in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio lot, and attends Hollywood parties in the hope of one day being discovered, and living the life she has dreamed of since she was a child. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a talented jazz pianist, reduced to playing Christmas music in a restaurant in order to make ends meet. He is a purist and passionate advocate of jazz - an art form he fears is dying. His dream is to one day own his own club.
They meet, they cute, they sing, they dance, they fall in love. Anyone who has seen (the excellent) Crazy Stupid Love will know these two have chemistry to spare. If you have even the tiniest spark of romance in your soul, you will fall as hard for Mia and Seb as a couple, as they do for each other. Stone has never been better, and looks set for a very busy awards season. An audition she goes to early in the film, where she receives bad news on a phone call, is heartbreakingly good. Gosling is on equally fine form, once again displaying the terrific comic timing he put to such good use in The Nice Guys. It is a classic leading man performance, full of charm, wit, and charisma. He’s also handsome, not sure if you’ve heard.
You may also have heard that they aren’t the most polished singers and dancers. It’s true. They’re still bloody good though; don’t let anyone tell you any different. They’re just not going to trouble Fred and Ginger anytime soon. Let’s face it (*puts on Gandalf voice) there are few who can. That being said, the “A Lovely Night” sequence, as they try to convince themselves that they are not falling for each other, and they dance together in front of that magical amethyst coloured sky, is destined to become a classic.
It is in the second half of the film where Chazelle really starts to get into the meat of his story. Mia and Seb have found love and happiness in each other, but their dreams still remain unfulfilled. What are they willing to compromise in the pursuit of art? Where will their ambition take them? Chazelle's exploration of this conflict is truthful and painful, and elevates the film to greatness.
But even whilst the film delves into weightier themes, his control over the tone is impeccable. The film never loses its sense of fun, and humour, and playfulness. He balances this all the way to the breathtaking finale. A sequence of such bravura, bittersweet brilliance, you can’t fail to be moved. La La Land truly is an irresistible force.