La La Land is a film for the dreamers among us all. A tale full of hope, ambition, and joy. And what better place for the aspirational than the movie capital of the world, Hollywood?
Which is exactly where we meet the film’s two leads, the biggest dreamers of them all, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Mia is a modern, Prius driving woman in a digital world, with hopes of becoming an actress. Sebastian on the other hand is more accustomed to the analogue, with his old school car and love of jazz. They’re different on the surface, even confrontational initially, but both wish for more than their lives hold as it stands, a shared desire that allows them to push each other on towards their ambitions.
No time’s wasted with the set up; within seconds we’re into an all singing, all dancing, crazy catchy musical routine that introduces the setting, the themes and the characters perfectly. The energy levels are through the roof from the offset, not just during the incredibly choreographed numbers, but also in the larger than life characters, and the dizzying, ever moving camerawork from Linus Sandgren. There was once a time that I would have greeted musicals with coldhearted cynicism, but if last year’s fantastic Sing Street cracked the icy walls surrounding my heart, then La La Land shattered them altogether. I’m all in for musicals now! You’d have to be pretty dead inside not to get swept up in the fun. And even if the music isn’t your thing (it is, trust me), there’s much to admire purely from a technical standpoint. Whether it’s roaming single take shots, or scenes lit by the setting sun, it’s an absolute treat to look at.
That’s before you even consider what’s happening within the frame – stunning choreography, singing, dancing, and a ridiculous amount of charisma, chemistry and talent coming from Stone and Gosling. Considering that director Damien Chazelle is only 32, it’s all rather sickeningly impressive. More important than just the glitz and glamour though, there’s heart and meaning to it all. Chazelle’s sophomore movie Whiplash was a brutally detailed look at the dedication taken to reach the pinnacle of musicianship, and jazz specifically. This takes a contrasting approach, focussing on what makes jazz and cinema magical enough to sacrifice for in the first place.
If La La Land acts as a love letter to Hollywood and to jazz, then this review can act as my love letter to La La Land. Any film that has J.K. Simmons joyfully bopping to music is clearly going to be amazing!
So enjoy, just prepare to have infectious songs “Another Day of Sun” and “City of Stars” rattling around your head for days on end afterwards.
Rating (out of 5):
Pre-order La La Land on Amazon, or buy the soundtrack on iTunes.