Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt
Genre: Comedy/ Drama/ Musical
Aspiring actress Mia (Stone) and Seb (Gosling), a jazz pianist who is very passionate about his music, are both residents of Los Angeles with their own individual dreams and aspirations. Fate brings the two of them together and they fall in love, but as success comes potentially calling for both of them, they may be forced to sacrifice their love for one another to pursue their individual dreams.
So, how do you follow up such an exceptional and very unique film like Whiplash? Well, you make a musical. Obviously.
La La Land is very much the darling of the awards season and has been regarded by many as the film of the year (though what that actual year is of course depends on when the film was viewed). Well, to say it is one of the best films of 2017 is not only a little premature (considering we are in February), but is also in my view wrong; La La Land is a very good film for many reasons, but for me is not a great film, does not deserve to win the big awards this year and will be forgotten about in a few years’ time.
Writer/ director Damien Chazelle certainly deserves full credit for having the borderline audacity in bringing an original musical to the screen. La La Land is a wonderful delight to watch; its narrative presentation of its sugar-coated and slightly naïve view of Tinsel Town and the world in general is a wonderfully nostalgic experience that pays a respectful homage to the classic Hollywood musicals without ever feeling like just a cheap rip-off.
La La Land never even attempts to re-invent the wheel in terms of its story, and is of course unashamedly contrived in terms of its narrative and positive in its ideologies. This is however both a good and appropriate thing in terms of it being such an entertaining viewing experience; it means Chazelle can focus on embracing this fact and making the aesthetic elements work. Chazelle’s predominantly static camerawork often capturing the main musical set pieces in long, uninterrupted takes. While Linus Sandgren’s cinematography captures wonderfully the film’s setting both during the sun-drenched daytime and the almost magical night time.
Of course, La La Land is unashamedly romantic, both in terms of how it depicts its setting and its main narrative, and though the two main characters are basically walking, talking clichés, the film is made so well that is it impossible not to want them to both succeed in their individual careers and their budding relationship.
As the couple, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are excellent; sharing an undeniable on-screen chemistry, as well as both having good singing voices and some great dancing moves. Chazelle’s script is also very funny, with great lines and physical comedy, and once again the charismatic Gosling showing a superb knack for comic timing.
However, while La La Land has many qualities and is a highly enjoyable piece of cinematic escapism, it is all surface and once over is very quickly forgotten. This may seem like I am being overly critical, but for me even a musical which appears light and fluffy on the surface can have some real substance beneath that. Though La La Land may have some potentially relatable themes, such as never giving up on pursuing a dream and having unrealised and underappreciated potential and talent, but despite this it is impossible not to care about the characters on some minor level, but it is ultimately very difficult to truly relate to or engage with either the characters, or indeed any aspect of the story on any deeper kind of level. Meanwhile the actual songs by Justin Hurwitz (of which there are not actually that many) are not particularly memorable and at times feel like they are there for the sake of it, but while adding very little to film in terms of our engagement.
It is of course great to see a film like La La Land come out, as it is made with the sole purpose of entertaining and being enjoyed, and though Chazelle undoubtedly achieves this, I think that fact this film is held in such high esteem by so many is because of pure blurry eyed nostalgia, and of course vein old Hollywood loves a film where Hollywood is the subject. As I said before, La La Land is a good film, but not a great film. Then, I did see Manchester by the Sea straight afterwards, so La La Land had some very tough competition.
A wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable romp; Thanks to Chazelle unashamedly embracing the clichés La La Land is a wonderful piece of cinematic escapism, but is ultimately quite forgettable due to being all surface.