Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie De Witt, John Legend, J.k Simmons
Genre: Musical, Comedy, drama, Romance
Released date: 7th December 2016
Los Angles, the city of angels, tinsel town, the home of Hollywood, this La La Land where so many people flock to to make their dreams come true. No other city is as synonymous with the silver screen as L.A., director/writer Damien Chazelle blends the old and the new Hollywood together. Following the tempo of the Whiplash director Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone once again come together to show us life and Love in L.A. Chazelle takes a left turn from the tension filled Whiplash (though it still does involve a nice drive by through the Jazz district) delving into a magical homage into the golden age of Hollywood romance.
Mia (EMMA STONE) and Sebastian (RYAN GOSLING) are just one of them many chasing their dreams in Los Angeles: Mia as an actress, sebastian as a jazz musician. Their journey together (getting off the ground after a rough couple yet comical interactions) as a couple and in their careers, changes like the seasons leaving each of them forever changed. It is a bringing together the modern realities of life with the nostalgia of an old cinematic romance. Ripped straight out of the old Hollywood playbook, the musical numbers spread throughout the film are breaths of fresh air standing out like the stars Mia and Sebastian aspire to be.
A good sign of a musical is if the songs linger in your mind long after the credits finish rolling. La La Land definitely offers music that can resonate deeply. The songs (composed by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Pasek and Paul) vary from big sweeping joyful numbers (another day of sun) to the more romantic fare (City of Stars) each and every song comes into the scene so naturally you would almost forget you are watching a musical film. While STONE and GOSLING aren’t the best singers, the tempos of the songs they sing (together and on their own) do not push their vocals into areas that feel unnaturally suited to their vocal ability. The melody of the music scores also is quite fantastical often lifting the scene and capturing the mood like a dream made real. The only tune that felt out of place was John Legend’s song Start a fire. While it may have been, the point to have something that is feels completely different (because of what Sebastian becomes a part of in order to make a living) it still doesn’t feel like something that fits in organically with music as a whole unit.
Having a story that revolves around the two lovers Mia and Sebastian, it is key to flow of the story that the leads need to have good enough chemistry to be believable as a couple. The fact that this is STONE and GOSLING’S third movie playing each other’s love interest it certainly shows. Their easy chemistry allows their banter to surface effortlessly; you can easily accept them as two people who fall in love. Out of the two leads, STONE in particular shines. Mia’s make or break audition in the third act showcases the raw vulnerability that Mia is feeling at this point in her life and these emotions just surge out of her as she tells a story that perfectly flows into a song. You can see how STONE cleaned up during the awards season with just that one scene alone.
After GOSLING and STONE, the next big star is the city itself. With director CHAZIELLE and cinematographer, Linus Sandgren highlights the some of the beautiful and historical areas of Los Angeles that in particular have played as backdrop to many movies and TV series such as the Warner Bros Studio and the Griffith Observatory. To shoot practically across many landmarks spread throughout LA is a very nice touch. It serves as a nice deference to a city that has been the birthplace to so many classic films, TV shows, and musicians. The way that some of the places were shot (e.g. Griffith Park) gives the scenes an ethereal look about it, it almost made you think it wasn’t real.
This is a film that from beginning to end shows why it did so well in the awards season in areas such as music, cinematography, acting, and production design. While it may not be an easy film to get into (as it isn’t based on a famous musical or involve acapella versions of pop songs) for those who are more familiar with films from a golden age of Hollywood you will find plenty to enjoy. La La Land feels fresh yet familiar in its world full of the hopeful dreamers driven by their passions in life and in love set in a city that epitomises the dream to reach for the stars.
4 ½ Stars