Winner - Best Director

Winner - Best Actress (Emma  Stone)

Winner -Best Original Music Score

Winner - Best Cinematography

Winner - Best Original Song

Winner - Best Production Design

SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT (2017)

 

Director: Damien Chazelle

 

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, JK Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock

First and foremost, La La Land is a musical. "Shit" I thought. It begins with a flamboyant, bombastic musical number. "Oooooh shit" I thought. What have I done? As the opening number dies down, and the movie begins I soon realised it was foolish to have had any concerns regarding the movie and the musical elements throughout. The movie is near perfect.

The musical aspects are littered throughout, as you’d imagine, but they fit the story and aren’t excessively used at every turn – the story is allowed to develop and breathe organically around it. Damien Chazelle has managed to evoke memories and tip his hat towards the classic musicals of old, whilst being set very much in modern day Los Angeles

This proved an advantageous move as we are not being transported back in time, though at times it does feel like it thanks in part to the costume design and character motivations. Let’s be frank though, Stone and Gosling are not Rogers and Astaire, but they don’t have to be – their routines aren’t as technical, the moves aren’t perfect but they work and they work well because of it. Vocally, Gosling is light but pleasant where Stone is fuller and easy sounding as they pull off the blissful original musical numbers, with highlights including “City of Stars” and “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”.

 

The chemistry of the lead actors is off the charts. Previous appearances together in Gangster Squad and Crazy, Stupid Love have helped forged Stone and Gosling’s ridiculously natural interaction and it will never be more apparent than it is here. Gosling is wonderful as the brooding jazz pianist who lives for his passion, and Stone is magnificent as the wannabe actress mired by the trappings of Hollywood. Both are allowed to run through a gamut of emotions and have their moments musically, shining as bright as each other. Throughout the routines and musical moments, they seem to be having fun and genuinely enjoying it. Elsewhere, John Legend provides a great supporting role as the lead singer of neo-jazz outfit, The Messengers.

 

Chazelle has a keen eye for a beautiful shot, and utilises his cameras wonderfully. They gracefully move through each flowing musical number as we follow the dance whether it be under the stars, floating through an observatory or in the streets and do nothing but help the scenes unfold quietly and effortlessly. The use of colour throughout is a joy to see, beginning with the opening rompalong on the highway (which is an explosion of colour) to Stone in a vibrant yellow dress dancing under a gorgeous purple sky, Gosling’s lonely walk along a pier and dimly lit jazz bars illuminated by flashes of neon – the movie is a feast for the eyes, the majority of scenes jumping out of the screen.

 

Crucially, behind the musical flourishes, the story itself is engaging and serves as a more captivating watch than the routines. This is partly down to the scintillating chemistry, but also down to simply good writing. What we don’t have is a simple girl-meets-boy and they live forever in glee plot, far from it, it’s a lot more real than that, and it’s that which lifts the movie and drives it along narratively. Are there simplistic elements? Sure, but nothing in the realms of unbelievable – certain aspects are a stretch, without being incredulous. Could dancing under (and in) the stars be viewed as corny? Probably. Does the movie seem to ignore itself as a musical towards the end? Possibly, but there was a resolution that needed to be shown naturally.

 

Powered along by stellar performances, set against beautiful backdrops and led by a glorious soundtrack, La La Land is a joyful triumph celebrating all that was great before and wrapping up in a modern day bow. Magnificent.

January 24th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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