La La Land (2016) Film Review

La La Land Review

La La Land Trailer

La La Land Review

La La Land is a modern musical based depiction of the love story between two aspiring LA based artists: an actress Mia (Emma Stone) and a jazz musician Seb (Ryan Gosling).

I feel so stupid even attempting to review this film, I'm pretty sure anything that could possibly be said about it has already been written.  I first saw it on a Saturday evening and barely slept that night because I was in some La La Land type daze. I couldn't stop thinking about it, the emotions it invoked were swirling around the pit of my stomach; I woke up and without really thinking drove straight back to the cinema to catch the first Sunday screening of the day. I haven't been so emotionally captivated by a film in a long time, but I'm struggling to quite articulate why.

From the start, La La Land is an unashamedly musical affair. The opening scene sees a jammed slip-road of LA traffic erupt into the all singing, all dancing, electrifying number 'Another Day of Sun' that hooked my heart and had me grinning from ear to ear. I live for musical theatre but that scene, that song and its racing tempo are something else.

The film follows up on its big opening sequence with a visual treat of lucid cinematography. Coupled with Chazelle's direction that cuts to overflowing champagne glasses, lets the audience splash around in a swirling pool and more often than not has the camera dancing along with the characters; La La Land has a dream like quality that exudes freedom of spirit. LA is captured in its best light making the whole thing a blissful treat for the eyes.

Justin Hurwitz' score is the life blood of this film. The transition from dialogue to song can often feel clunky in movie musicals but La La Land's songs aren't needless. They enhance and exaggerate the plot, turn reality into fantastical, heightened emotion then bring the characters skillfully back down to earth. While Gosling and Stone may not be the world's best vocalists or dancers, their duet version of 'City of Stars' is a real treat and I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't get swept along with their dance sequence to 'A Lovely Night' which begins with a most welcome nod to 'Singin' in the Rain'. Also, massive props have to be given to Gosling for playing all of the jazz piano himself!

Mia and Seb's love story evolves through four (sunny) seasons. It would have been very easy for La La Land to be 'just another generic love story', but Gosling and Stone have undeniable chemistry and these characters are resiliently strong advocates for each other's dreams and aspirations. There's a distinct point right before the 'summer' section of the film begins where I'm pretty sure the classic musicals of the 40's and 50's would have called it a day. Instead, Mia, in particular, gets a richer trajectory than those classic musicals would have allowed. The film's epilogue hones this concept down into a compact, nostalgic, bittersweet eight minutes that lead into a heart stopping finale that skillfully delivers a succinct message for the modern era.

Overall, this film is pure escapism that's been executed in the most luxurious of ways. I could ramble on about it and probably begin to find fault if I thought about it too critically, but nothing can detract from the sheer joy I felt after that first viewing. I give La La Land a rating of 5/5.

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