Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Amiee Conn
Runtime: 2 hrs 8 mins
Soundtrack for Audio Pleasure:
Review Presented in Cinemascope:
Looks like I’m just another someone in the crowd who loves this film. (apologies for the forced song pun)
La La Land is sweeping all the awards and I’ve been dying to see it. It finally came out in the UK and I couldn’t help but watch it on the first day of release. It’s rare I get excited about a film as much as I was for this. It was going to Star Wars territory. Somehow, it exceeded my expectations. The film follows the romance between struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) as they try and balance their dreams with their love. And there are plenty of songs because it’s a musical. I hate musicals. Somehow this film is perfect.
The film pulls you right into the musical mood with an opening scene that hearkens back to the classics complete with “Cinemascope” title card and joyous dancing on cars. So much of the film leans on this opening as it could easily have been slightly less than perfect and put off the people who don’t like musicals. It’s just so infectious, though, with a song in “Another Day Of Sun” that I can’t get out of my head, and a continuous shot from a beautifully melodic camera that is a marvel to experience on a technical level. That’s how the film works. Everything is so stunningly well pulled off from the gorgeous lighting, the infinitely relateable characters and the beautiful dance numbers. Nothing is less than perfect.
When talking about a musical, you don’t expect to be so blown away by the visuals. Obviously you see the impressive dance choreography but the visual direction is vibrantly colourful and the cuts (or lack-thereof) and dream-like sections are pure magic. The visuals are what got me hooked from the trailers and it is wondrous to experience on the big screen. The observatory sequence is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. But of course, musicals have music. It doesn’t fail there either. While sometimes the melodies can feel slightly interchangeable, it doesn’t matter because it’s all just so good. And it isn’t stuff that you can grow tired of easily. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for hours! The slower tracks like “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” demonstrate an ability to strike a chord in your heart while earlier songs like the aforementioned “Another Day Of Sun” and “Someone In The Crowd” are impossible not to get up and dance to.
Then you move past the technical marvels of Damien Chazelle’s direction and Justin Hurwitz’s music and onto the characters and the story. The film first blew me away with the style but what makes this a masterpiece is the emotional power of the romance. Both characters are beautifully well realised and performed by both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who would both get Oscars from me (I haven’t seen Moonlight, Jackie or Elle yet). I found both characters unbelievably connectable thanks to how well the universal message of the dreamer is portrayed. They felt like they were made just for me but somehow this film is managing to provide this feeling to almost everyone (except for the inevitable hipster-haters who always turn up when a great film is being treated like a great film).
The love story is heart-consuming and swallowed me whole almost instantly. It all builds to an ending that is monumentally moving in a way I’ve never experienced before. Whiplash proved Damien Chazelle could end a film unforgettably but this somehow outdoes it, and it’s also very different. I don’t know how some people are able to resist this film’s unrivalled charm because I was a mess of emotions by the time this film ended. Another complaint I’ve heard is that maybe 10-15 minutes could be shaved off. It could. Would I want that? No. I’d want it to go on forever. This is the first time a film I’ve seen at the cinema has broken into my all time Top 10. This film is the best of the decade and almost the best of the 21st Century. The way this film manages to weave the old with the new is magnificent. It reminds me of how Creed was able to pay respect to the Rocky legacy so well while also knowing it had to prove itself as itself. This film has plenty of old-school homages but it does so much new as well. Now don’t mind me, I’m off to see this film in the cinema every time I have a couple hours free.
Summary: One of the greatest films, not just of this Oscar season, but of all time, La La Land is an infectious melding of old and new with great music, gorgeous visuals, and incredible characters who will steal your heart.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
-Written by Greg Warne