Following its triumphant run in the U.S, and a rapturous night of success at the Golden Globes, La La Land finally opened here in the UK last week. When a film gets as much fanfare as this one has received it’s difficult to contain your expectations accordingly, but try as I might it’s been hard to contain my excitement following the embarrassingly large number of awards that have been cascaded towards the film’s feet. Not to mention that ultra-talented director Damien Chazelle, along with leading pair Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, have quite the pedigree between them to warrant a stirring sense of anticipation.
Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone), attempting to negotiate the harsh realities of breaking into the film business, continually finds herself bumping into jazz enthusiast Seb (Ryan Gosling) who dreams of opening his own club. Despite an acrimonious beginning a relationship begins to blossom between them set to the backdrop of the beautiful L.A skyline.
La La Land is a gorgeous movie, that captures an evocative, dreamlike feel of the city of Los Angeles. Chazelle’s camera is swift, yet definite, with the musical sequences captured in long, expertly staged, takes filmed in Cinemascope which was at its height in the 1950’s, an era La La Land repeatedly nods it head towards. The choreography is inventive and fluid, slick when it needs to be and graceful when it has to be. All the while cinematographer Linus Sandgren manages to fill the screen with an effervescent, dreamy, array of colours. He captures both the mundane world the characters attempt to rail against and the pure romanticism of the city of which they dream. This is displayed best in a terrific dance sequence between Gosling and Stone on a lowly hill top overlooking the L.A skyline. Filmed at “Magic Hour” where the setting sun and neon lights combine to make a dazzlingly surreal landscape that description can barely surmise. Chazelle has made a musical that feels both modern and nostalgic, mixing smartphones and vintage fashion styles, fusing classic Jazz with the new wave, and the dreams of aspiring artists with the crushing weight of reality. Stone is phenomenal, perfectly cast, managing to display charm, wit and an authentic passion that makes you yearn to believe in the magic of movies. Mia is a character fuelled by classic Hollywood trying to maintain her dreams in a world where an audition can come to an end in seconds, where you may spend your entire life auditioning for a part that will never come. Whilst Gosling also delivers yet another terrific performance as Seb, a fellow dreamer, with a rougher edge, who is revitalised by his meeting with Mia. Gosling and Stone have portrayed a couple on screen twice before in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad so it is no surprise that their chemistry is spot on. Both are rightly receiving plaudits for their performances, and Stone is a favourite to win an Oscar next month. There is a small role for J.K Simmons in the movie however he only has about fifteen lines, which are swiftly delivered, but is thoroughly brilliant in what is little more than a cameo. The music is instantly catchy, filled with flair and buoyancy by Justin Hurwitz, another Oscar favourite, in his third collaboration with close friend Chazelle.
La La Land is a wonderful journey exploring the passion of those who chase their dreams, and the hardships that they face in trying to achieve them. Mia often mentions Casablanca, one of the oft quoted classic love stories, and though we must wait decades to see if La La Land will become a classic of cinematic history in the same way I’m confident that I will always remember where I was when I fell in love with Mia, Seb and the ones who dream.
Dir: Damien Chazelle
Scr: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K Simmons, John Legend
Prd: Fred Burger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt
DOP: Linus Sandgren
Music: Justin Hurwitz
Runtime: 128 Minutes
La La Land is out now in UK cinemas.