Monday, 9 January 2017

La La Land Review

In the first third of La La Land, Damien Chazelle's entralling follow up to three-time Oscar winner Whiplash, Ryan Gosling's Seb says "why do you say romantic like it's a bad thing?" and in many ways that's the perfect summation of what makes La La Land so wonderful. La La Land is like those signs people have in their houses 'Live, Life, Love' but in the least corny way possible. It's a hopeless romantic with its head  positively in the clouds.  It's also an excellent example of how the musical can work in the 21st Century, where seemingly it's a dying breed. 

An ever excellent Ryan Gosling and an equally adorable Emma Stone star as Seb and Mia, respectively, as two dreamers who have a passion and a love for what they do yet do not seem to be making any progress in their fields. Much like Chazelle's Whiplash, this is about a passion for music and a certain drive that it takes to reach the top. Unlike Whiplash, it shows the lighter and happier side of this. In many ways it makes the perfect companion piece to Chazelle's former film and La La Land can be seen as Whiplash's exuberant, slightly excitable and wholly less cynical younger sibling.

Seb and Mia's relationship and every move hinges on one thing: the performances of Stone and Gosling. Luckily and unsurprisingly, Stone and Gosling have been here before (Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad) and have the finest chemistry in Hollywood right now. Arguably, they could match Doris Day and Rock Hudson from the Golden Age of cinema (and the musical). There seems to be this almost pathological connection between the two stars that makes them as irresistibly charming and alluring as the film itself. Gosling's facial expressions in particular are exceptional. Whether he wants to make you laugh, cry or sympathise, he makes perfect sure that he does just that.

And, of course, a musical wouldn't be anywhere without its music, but strangely the music does seem to take a backseat. Aside from the somewhat off-putting opening number 'Another Day Of Sun', the music is nuanced, subtle and refined and brings a touch of class to proceedings not seen since Gene Kelly was on screen. Justin Hurtwitz has delivered another marvellous score and soundtrack that brings a level of sophistication to the film. This is how you make a musical for the 'realist' generation.

La La Land is absolutely not a film for those of a cynical mind. Yet even then, I think that it is so lovely that it just may sway those too. This film is for the dreamers, the fantasists, the lovers and those who are looking for a touch of nostalgia. In a time where everything getting darker and more serious, La La Land is a breath of fresh air. They don't make 'em like this anymore? Yes they do, and it's called La La Land.