La La Land : Review
La La Land was a hugely entertaining, vibrant, heartfelt and emotive ode to falling in love and chasing your dreams. It’s set against the backdrop of modern day Hollywood, all while providing a loving homage to the Golden Age of the Hollywood musical.
The film charts the struggles of aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and down on his luck jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). The pair are struggling to make it in their respective fields but after a couple of chance meetings they begin to fall head over heels in love. The film then follows the strains and permeations that look set to mould their long-term futures.
The opening song and dance number atop a crowded freeway traffic jam sets the exuberant tone from the off. Another stand-out sequence sees our young lovers visibly falling for each other as they gleefully dance under the LA stars as the city stretches out behind them. While these two numbers work beautifully, and nearly all the choreography is wonderfully eye-catching and inventive, if I had one small complaint it was that none of the songs are overly memorable. The only real ear-worm in fact comes from a melancholy piano refrain utilised frequently by Seb. That being said though, while the songs aren’t effortlessly catchy by any means , the vim and energy they generate is undeniable.
Director Damien Chazelle taps into Hollywood’s musical heritage perfectly, creating a dreamy, romanticised LA filled with hopers and dreamers and where romance permanently fills the air. His film doesn’t hide its homages one bit, rather it wears them instead like a badge of honour, proudly channelling the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred and Ginger and countless others.
Gosling’s Seb is a soulful and passionate tortured artist, a man caught between his love for jazz and his need to make a living. Stone meanwhile is as loveable and charming as ever, with her Mia veering from hopeful and driven to downtrodden and deflated as she gets beaten down by the harsh realities of Hollywood.
It’s the repartee between these two stars that really makes the film work. Neither of them are the greatest dancers and Gosling isn’t the strongest of singers, but they both throw themselves into their roles and have the simple charisma and affable charm to pull it all off.
The film isn’t afraid to appear schmaltzy, it’s an unashamed injection of fun and frivolity. However there is also a bittersweet element to the story that befits a tale that puts a great deal of focus on the realities of Hollywood life. It could so easily have been overly quirky, but Chazelle keeps it all on track magnificently and thanks to his two captivating leads, he has helped to reinvigorate a near forgotten genre.
(Image Credit : Summit Entertainment)