La La Land


D: Damien Chazelle

Lionsgate/Summit/Black Label (Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert & Marc Platt)

US 2016

128 mins


W: Damien Chazelle

DP: Linus Sandgren

Ed: Tom Cross

Mus: Justin Hurwitz; Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

PD: David Wasco

Cos: Mary Zophres

Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wilder), Emma Stone (Mia Dolan), John Legend (Keith), Rosemarie Dewitt (Laura Wilder), J.K. Simmons (Bill)

I'll start this review by confessing that I'm really not a fan of the musical genre, bar a handful of the classics and a very small minority of modern musicals. The same goes for romance films, which I just can't buy into unless I make some form of connection with the characters. Considering La La Land  fuses both genres, it's not a film I'd be rushing to see if it weren't for the Oscar hype.

The background of the film itself is quite interesting. It's the film that Damien Chazelle wanted to kick his career off with, but no producers were willing to trust him with the necessary budget to make it work so he initially cut his teeth with the critically-acclaimed Whiplash, which I have to admit was my favourite film of 2014. Since it struck a chord with many people, the producers gained trust in the young director and made it possible for La La Land to go into production.

The film is split into the four seasons of the year, beginning with Winter and the opening scene is a song and dance which brings life to the mundanity of traffic gridlock on the freeway. In all honesty, I wasn't particularly impressed and despite the choreography working like clockwork, I felt the worst for the next two hours.

In fact, the first act to me just felt like a contrived attempt to lure in Oscar votes, working like a checklist to score points for production design, costumes, cinematography and editing. 

However, my opinion began to sway when the two lead characters meet at a pool party in the Spring, when aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) gets a bit of revenge for struggling jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) acting like a jerk at their very first meeting. The reason for my change of mind was simply due to the performances of the two actors, particularly Emma Stone, whose magnetism and pizzazz can't help but raise a smile. 

As their relationship and careers blossom, the visuals throw in a wink and a nod to Hollywood, the dream of fame and as many references to golden age movies as you can handle, and considering how Hollywood loves to congratulate itself, it's little surprise  that the Academy Awards lavished the film with a record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations.

However, the film is very clever with its back-patting, offering a different way to find appreciation for the genres we don't like (in the film's instance, Jazz music) and offers a modern twist to it.

It's fair to say, and I'll probably lose some street cred for this, but I was absolutely loving La La Land by the time the halfway point of the film came, and this continued until the very end. 

It's a film for lovers of music, romance, movies in general and though it is very self-effacing, it has a deep message that we have two lives, the one we live and the one we dream, and there's really nothing wrong with losing yourself in pure escapism.

The winner of a record 7 Golden Globes is truly worth every single accolade and more. This really is a mesmerising movie event which has to be caught on the big screen.


Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone in La La Land
Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone in La La Land