The musical cast led by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dances and sings its way to success in the box office
Winning a number of awards including 7 golden globes, Damien Chazelle’s musical romantic comedy has been glowing with praise, but is it justified?
La La Land is a gorgeous film. From its exquisite wardrobe to its minimalist settings that augment the Los Angeles scenery, La La Land excels in delivering stunning, organic visuals. La La Land sits amongst CGI-heavy blockbusters and proves that sometimes, less is more.
The premise to La La Land is simple: struggling but talented actress Mia (Emma Stone) meets struggling but talented jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) as the two embark on their journey to pursue their dreams of making it big in their respective fields.
In many respects, the plotline to La La Land isn’t commendable. It feels a tad generic, a bit too familiar and ultimately predictable. However, where La La Land stands out amongst regular rom-coms is its delivery of its love tale.
La La Land’s opening scene is perhaps one of the most outstanding beginnings to any musical. Recorded entirely in one take, the six-minute highway traffic jam dance number is brilliantly choreographed and executed faultlessly, despite involving over 60 cars, 30 dancers and 100 extras. The scene itself deserves an award for its sheer scale, diligent teamwork and extraordinary result.
Fortunately, La La Land’s flame didn’t burn out after its opening number, which only proved to be a sign of what was to come. Despite being set in modern day LA, where smartphones are ubiquitous and Prius’s are cool, Chazelle manages to capture a retro 50’s vibe through the presentation of his film. From Mia’s wardrobe of elegant and stylish dresses that exude just enough glamor to reflect the exuberant energy and colorful choices of the 50’s heyday, to Chazelle’s focus on projecting LA’s vintage appeal rather than its glitz, La La Land is a beautiful marriage of modern times and times gone by.
Chazelle’s complex but yet effortless infusion of the past and present is not without reason either, reflecting deeply on Seb’s struggle in reviving authentic jazz music and re-introducing it to LA’s music scene. At times, as the audience finds themselves heavily immersed in Chazelle’s faux-fifties, it is easy to forget that the happenings unfolding before them are set in present day times. Seb’s fascination with the bygone era, embracing smokey jazz clubs and taking his new found love to see James Deans Rebel Without A Cause at the cinema as if it’s the latest blockbuster to hit the town, only enahnces Chazelle’s world.
Being a musical at its crux, all of the above would be redundant if La La Land’s music was weak. Fortunately, Justin Hurwitz’s (Whiplash) compositions are top notch. Hurwitz’s tunes are not overbearing and their simple, jazzy nature goes hand in hand with the film’s minimalist style. For musical lovers, La La Land delivers a range of interesting tunes with poetic lyrics that drive the story forward. For those who don’t spend too much time in the West End or on Broadway, La La Land delivers an inoffensive number of songs, striking a fair balance between dialogue and singing. In either case, audiences will leave cinemas with ‘City Of Stars’ ringing in their ears for days to come.
In terms of acting, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling both bring out their A-games. La La Land is perhaps Stone’s most testing film and she performs excellently. Her heartfelt singing, elegant dancing and emotive acting are all on display here. Her ‘audition scene’ will no doubt be a highlight on her showreel.
Gosling too has a surprisingly smooth voice that sounds almost authentically 50’s. Whilst Gosling’s dancing doesn’t seem as natural as Stone’s, it’s by no means laughable. It was also fantastic to see Sonoya Mizuno who plays one of Mia’s flatmates, Caitlin, representing British Asians on screen. Mizuno, who bursts on screen early in the film with her phenomenal dancing skills, certainly has incredible potential and I can’t wait to see more of her.
La La Land is in many ways a modern day masterpiece. It’s creative, elegant, heartfelt, delightful and energetic; all of which is augmented by its stunning but minimalistic visuals that present a nostalgic throwback to a retro and vintage Los Angeles.