La La Land. An Oscar-winning musical starring two of the hottest screen stars in town. Sounds like something from the 1950’s, and well, that’d be just about right. Yes, it turns out they can make ’em like they used to.
He’s (Gosling) a frustrated jazz pianist, she’s (Stone) a hopeful actress. They meet in Los Angeles and take an instant like-dislike to each other. They fall in love with each other, we fall in love with them, oh, but if only it was that simple.
As writer and director (don’t you just hate him!?) Damien Chazelle proves himself a surefooted force, as La La Land proudly demonstrates his schooling on classic musicals – think Singin’ in the Rain meets Once More with Feeling! (yes, the Buffy episode). His debut offering, Whiplash, showed his talent for capturing rhythm in film, not only in the literal sense of musical numbers, but also the emotional rhythm of the drama, and how impact is amplified when we genuinely feel for our characters.
It helps that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are two of the most endearing movie stars on the planet, both conveying a fluid understanding of the other, while using their inherent charisma to comfortably surpass any limitations when it comes to the song and dance; handy viewing tip – they’re supposed to be ‘normal’ people, not professional singers and dancers. There are resplendent moments of unshackled joy happening left, right and centre, as Gosling and Stone capitalise on their natural chemistry to deliver a potent dose of Hollywood bedazzlement, the like of which hasn’t been seen in decades.
Away from the movie star glamour on show, there are multiple stars of La La Land. Linus Sandgren’s dreamily sumptuous cinematography is museum-worthy – almost every single shot renewing and spilling over a sense of love, colour and affection. While the soundtrack doesn’t feature any particular showstopping tunes, it is beautifully spaced around the love story we’re being told and is thoroughly welcome whenever it arrives.
La La Land aims to seduce, and from beginning to end, it does so with a magical spring in its step. Yes, we can cynically observe how overly in love with itself Hollywood is, but by that token, you’d have to trash a lot of cherished musicals to prove a point, when in reality, it’s more fun to let the stardust sprinkle down while getting drunk on the artfully choreographed sense of romantic wonder on offer.