Tuesday, 17 January 2017

La La Land

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress working as a barista in a coffee shop on the actual lots of Hollywood. Seb (Ryan Gosling) is jazz musician with dreams that are far beyond playing Christmas tunes on a piano at a crappy restaurant. The pair meet on numerous occasions before romance blossoms, and as they both try (and sometimes struggle) to make their dreams come true, they go through a whirlwind romance full of highs and lows.

Critics and the Academy tend to like films that celebrate Hollywood’s past and the industry (think The Artist and Birdman) so it’s hardly a great surprise that La La Land is making critics sing the film’s praises right across the board, and it also won’t be surprising if the film wins big at this year’s Oscars. La La Land is a love letter to the classic age of cinema, particularly the musicals, right from opening frame with the cheeky “presented in cinemascope” title card. Mentions of famous movies, movie locations (the central pair gaze at the window that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman stared out of in the movie Casablanca) and a mural of recognisable and famous actors all contribute to the loving and slightly infectiously delightful view of Hollywood.

The sunny and perfect view that the film has of Hollywood does make the film a bit of fluffy entertainment but one that’s beautifully and expertly made. Director Damien Chazelle handles the technical aspects faultlessly as the stunning camerawork during the major choreographed dance numbers flies from performer to performer as though the dance numbers were done in the single take. Linus Sandgren’s camerawork is the film's finest factor, the brilliantly choreographed dance numbers are given extra sparkle by the use of colour and the way Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are dancing, framed against the crimson backdrop of the city, is seductive in its beauty. 

The film’s music, plus Stone and Gosling’s dancing and singing, has been a source of criticism from those who didn’t quite buy into the film's charms. It’s true that the songs aren’t quite as catchy as the musicals from the past, but those films have had decades for their songs to thrive in popular culture. Unfavourable (and unfair) comparisons have been made about Stone and Gosling to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the pair can hold a tune decently enough and are impressive in their dancing with their impeccable timing. In addition to their decent voices and great timing, the pair share a remarkable chemistry helping them keep seamlessly in tune with one another.

For all the great technical aspects, you can’t let the story fail. Musicals are not really known for their complex and deep storylines, but La La Land’s story of two young lovers, who meet cute a few times, is charming enough. It’s a little clich├ęd (aspiring actress in LA) and little too long (clocking in at over two hours) but it’s easy to let the spellbinding visuals, passionate and dedicated performances win you over.



  1. Great review! It really is so beautiful to look at. I actually really liked the songs, but I didn't think Gosling or Stone had strong vocals.

    1. Yeah. They certainly aren't great singers but certainly not bad enough to actually make the film a bad one.