In a modern world where things look bleak and negativity reigns supreme, what we all need is two hours, just two hours to sit back, watch something wildly entertaining and be pulled into a world of colour and song; this is exactly what Damien Chazelle’s La La Land does. This film pays homage to the classic, old school Hollywood musicals we all love, complete with a recurring melody sequence, a big musical act cameo (John Legend) and even a dream sequence or two.
Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s story focuses around the two characters of Mia and Sebastian played by Hollywood’s favourite duo Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Mia, a struggling actress and Sebastian, a passionate but unemployed jazz pianist, are thrown together by a random series of events, and fall in love. The course of the film follows their romance and the trials and tribulations that come with success or lack there-of. With cameos from acclaimed actor J.K. Simmons and the vocal stylings of John Legend, this movie is packed to the brim with staring talent.
This movie could not have found a better couple than Stone and Gosling. Having acted in several films together before, the chemistry between the two was at times electric. Emma Stone (Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love) plays Mia in a way that allows her to appear strong and funny, but in certain spots, you feel your heart break for her. Similarly, Gosling’s (Nice Guys, The Notebook) unique charm and seemingly effortless humour allows his character, Sebastian, to come across as charming yet with a perfectly sustained trace of sadness visible beneath the character’s surface. Together, they make movie magic and present a couple that you can’t help but root for.
You could expect no less from a somewhat new director in Damien Chazelle. His first real venture into the world of film-making in Hollywood was to write and direct the Academy Award winning film Whiplash. With La La Land though, Chazelle tones down the characteristic intensity of his debut to present us with an intimate look into the lives of these two people. Though the plot might feel quite simple, it is necessary to incorporate the stunning compositions of Justin Hurtwitz, whom Chazelle worked with on Whiplash. The range of music in this film is incredible and the repetition of one melody in several different ways almost guides the audience in the direction they should be feeling for that scene. All of these components mixed with Linus Sandgren’s impeccable cinematography means that the film is destined for success.
It appears Ryan Gosling’s Disney days have done him justice as you could almost feel the audience tense up and relax immediately when he began to dance. Stone and Gosling dance several times in the film including a wide variety of dance from tap to ballroom. The choreography by Mandy Moore (no, not that Mandy Moore), allows the two actors to shine and only further amplifies the film’s charming feel. When it comes to the pair as vocalists, Mariah Carey they are not. However, you have to keep in mind that they aren’t trained singers, and once you get over the slight cringe factor, it’s really not that bad.
All in all, the film is a feel good cringe-fest but in the best possible way. From the poppy group opener to the subdued final song, the film brings you through life with these characters that you can’t help but become attached to and isn’t that what all great films do? Already winning awards at film festivals, there is no doubt in my mind that this film with be a huge success and a crowd favourite.
La La Land is in cinemas nationwide from 12 January.