The critically adored La La Land from the seemingly infinitely talented writer-director Damien Chazelle gets another glowing commendation from Top 10 Films. Lyndon Wells explains why this musical comedy-drama is La La Lovely…
It is now impossible to mention this La La Lovely film without all the awards buzz that comes with it. All the glowing reviews will add to the audience’s expectation and hype and I am afraid this review is no different. This film is an utter delight.
La La Land follows aspiring LA actress Mia (Emma Stone) who meets frustrated Jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling). Their chance encounter leads to some musical flirtations and a blossoming relationship that is tested as they also seek to achieve their individual dreams.
The opening flourish with a nostalgic CinemaScope title card throws you straight in the musical deep-end. A traffic jam on the freeway in LA quickly becomes a daring and colourful song with plenty of dancing as they celebrate “Another Day of Sun”. The opening is a slice of unadulterated joy, however it will immediately test the non-musical fan. However, the whole opening third is overflowing with charm, humour and grace of the classic MGM musicals. Hollywood loves films about Hollywood, but this time the film is more than worthy of its praise.
Mia and Seb are not the polished perfect stars of the classic MGM musicals, their singing and dancing is flawed, which adds to the charm and realism of the piece as they are having as much fun as you are watching them. The charm of the film also comes from the modern twists as it is not afraid to laugh at itself with Gosling at one point playing the Keytar in an A-ha tribute band.
The real charm and spark comes from the lead couple who will deserve every award coming their way. The chemistry is undeniable and sparks literally fly off the screen in their third pairing after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad. This is undoubtedly a two-hander with several minor supporting roles including John Legend. Gosling’s character Seb controls the film’s soul with his initial dour approach matched to Stone’s abundant heart and charm. The character of Seb is perhaps more rounded than Mia’s as he has flaws and nuance. Mia’s is just charm personified with her previously hidden layers emotionally exposed in her music, especially “The Fools Who Dream”.
The film is elevated to great heights by a soundtrack I now cannot stop listening to especially the haunting “City of Stars”. Director Damien Chazelle has teamed up again with his Whiplash collaborator Justin Hurwitz with stunning results. Chazelle has announced himself as one of the best and unique directors working today. Following the five-star masterpiece Whiplash with this musical triumph is more than impressive. The only question is what will he do next, as this 31-year-old could retire now and still be labelled a genius. The direction here is beautiful with a bright nostalgic colour palate. The single take approach to the musical numbers adds a natural elegance to the editing. There is also some use of narrative time-bending to great effect.
There is a lull in the middle third and a gravity defying dance among the stars in the Observatory flirts with corny and it is perhaps a touch too long but I have no idea what I would want to take out. As the couple’s career aspirations challenge the relationship there is a tonal shift to indie relationship drama. The film almost forgets the magic of the musical in favour of the texture and grit of real life.
The ending will be much talked about with a sense of having your cake and eating, but I found it extremely satisfying and not necessarily the tearjerker you might expect. La La Land deserves to be the awards frontrunner; however I did not have the desire to sit and watch it again straight away but I did want to listen to the music. I also believe Whiplash is a superior film which is why La La Land only gets four stars from me but it is La La Lovely!!