By Oliver Rees
If you’ve recently turned on the television, listened to the radio, or even just popped out to your local supermarket, then chances are you’ve heard of La La Land. It swept up just about every Golden Globe going and is matched only by Titanic in earning the most Oscar nominations in history. Think of it as the motion picture equivalent of Adele.
And if all that wasn’t enough to turn your head, it’s also a musical.
From the first moments of its all-singing, all-dancing grandiose opening performance to its wistful curtain call, La La Land dismisses any whisperings of doubt you may have had.
Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) plays Seb, a down-on-his-luck jazz musician. Deflated by society’s lack of appreciation for his style of jazz, Seb dreams of opening his own jazz bar. Emma Stone (Birdman) takes on the role of Mia, an aspiring actress working in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio lot. She faces some pretty cutting rejections on her search for success (one of which is based upon one of Gosling’s own experiences). Through several coincidental encounters the pair end up falling in love to a soundtrack scored by Justin Hurwitz.
We’ve already seen the on-screen chemistry Stone and Gosling share from previous films, Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, and their latest collaboration is no exception. Their acting relationship perfectly sets the scene as we learn of the directions Mia and Seb’s careers take and the affects it has on their relationship.
“How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.”
This is the advice given to Seb by high-school friend Keith (John Legend), who realises that Seb’s failed attempts at a jazz revival may be down to his insistence on heralding it in its conventional, old-school fashion.
Could this be the same fate for director Damien Chazelle? With the film’s irrefutable nods to classic works such as Casablanca and Singin’ in the Rain, the possibility of La La Land seeming nothing more than a tribute to old Hollywood musicals is not completely out of the question. After all, cinematographer Linus Sandgren shows no fear of embracing nostalgic movie glamour through his decision to shoot in CinemaScope, a style popular back in the 1950s.
Yet, by pairing Sandgren’s vision with 21st century landscapes and technology, Chazelle does quite the opposite: La La Land is revolutionary, reminding us of the power that cinematography and music can have.
Even though Gosling and Stone don’t possess the strongest voices in the world, the authenticity in their tones reels you in. La La Land’s plot may not have the complexity of a Dan Brown novel-come-film, but this seems trivial. In fact, you could even say it highlights the film’s natural beauty.
You may want to prepare yourself for an ending that divides opinions, but finally we are able to enjoy the kind of film that has not been seen on the big screen for years.
La La Land review: 5/5