From the opening credits through to its closing epilogue, it’s easy to see why everyone has gone gaga for La La Land. It is an age old cliché to say that “They don’t make them like they used to”, but they really don’t, making La La Land one of the best experiences that I have had in the cinema for a long time.
Using a mixture of the nostalgia from the Hollywood Musicals of a bygone era and blending these with a more contemporary love story it’s a winning formula of the old and the new. Referencing classics along the way both directly and indirectly such as Singing in the Rain, Casablanca and Rebel without a Cause, it doesn’t just play homage to these classics but it manages to transcend the novelty in the same way that the Artist (2012) did for the silent movies. It must also be noted that in no way am I saying that this marks the return of the musical, as just within the last year we have been treated to the likes of Disney’s Moana and John Carney’s Sing Street, showing that the genre is alive and well.
Written and directed, faultlessly, by Damien Chazelle, fresh from his success with Whiplash in 2014, he shows once again that he is a master of his craft with an impeccable vision. He uses a similar theme of tough love as he did with Whiplash but also makes it all about the dreamers and the sacrifices that they sometimes have to make. Opening up to a black and white ‘CinemaScope’ title card, which then gives way to a multi-coloured and cultural explosion of song and dance amidst a traffic jam, La La Land embraces the magic of the musical to bring a timeless and charming story of following your dreams.
At the centre of it all is the beautiful and absolutely charming pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian who have both arrived in Los Angeles in pursuit of fulfilling their dreams. Mia, whilst working in a coffee shop, has the hopes of making it as a movie star in Tinsel Town but is constantly being rejected, interrupted and dismissed at interviews. Sebastian, on the other hand, has the ambition to open up his own jazz club but is stuck playing Christmas songs on a piano at a restaurant.
Despite both of them appearing to be stuck in this endless loop of disappointment and rejection, it’s through each other that they manage to find that spark that ignites the push that they both need. We follow the pair through the seasons with an incredibly playful courtship, filled with joyous songs and dance routines, that blossoms into a whirlwind romance with the pair edging ever closer to making their dreams a reality.
However, despite all its singing and dancing, La La Land still manages to pack an emotional bittersweet punch. This is mainly due to how invested in Mia and Sebastian we have become through their journey. We end up caring about them and how then end up. You want them to succeed, achieve their dreams and live happily ever after. In a picture literally littered with beautiful, playful and moving moments it is within its final ten-minute epilogue that delivers one of the most magical montages I’ve seen, which manages to bring smiles and tears that is without doubt the films defining bittersweet moment.
Justin Hurwitz has done an incredible job delivering an infectious score that ensures you’ll be humming along to ‘City of Stars‘ for weeks on end. Whilst the lyrics penned by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, expect for ‘Start a Fire‘, which was written by John Legend who also makes an appearance in the film, will have you tap dancing down the street.
Director of photography, Linus Sandgren, thrusts the camera and you as the viewer with it, as it floats, twirls and glides along effortlessly. Long single takes beautifully capture the dance routines and gorgeous Los Angeles backdrop.
Everyone has dreams, regardless of how trivial, which helps make this simple and relatable story so infectious and its modern approach to the old school musical is also a real asset. Both Stone and Gosling are so compelling that they give the whole magiacal romance its energy and irresistible charm.
La La Land was an absolute joy to behold from start to finish and I absolutely adored it. It’s an exuberant ode to a bygone golden age for the dreamers. This film is effervescent with everything that can make a trip to the movies magical and this is one film that is certainly worth making a song and a dance over.