After directing Whiplash in 2014, Damien Chazelle returns to direct a love letter to Hollywood with La La Land.
La La Land tells the story of an aspiring jazz club owner and musician Seb (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) who hit it off at a party where Seb is playing. Now, I’m not usually one for musicals or over sentimental romantic comedies and nor am I one for people falling in love instantly after meet cutes.
It’s testament to La La Land, then, that this absolutely blew me away. Gosling and Stone have such compelling chemistry that their relationship is instantly believable. Gosling is brilliantly charming and often hilarious but it’s Stone who really provides the heartbeat of the film with a beautifully vulnerable performance. She is the audience’s gateway into the whirlwind of trying to make it in LA. It’s exciting and full of hope, but also terrifying and raw with rejection around every corner. It’s a film that’s incredibly heartwarming and full of joy and yet had moments of realism and melancholia.
The film doesn’t get carried away with itself. The musical interludes are brilliantly written into the compelling story of Seb and Mia and add a lot to the development of the relationship, which is perfectly played out in tandem with their respective career prospects. There’s nothing over the top here. No overlong musical set pieces. Nothing too self indulgent and I think that helps. It’s not too fantastical. The realistic nature of Seb and Mia’s relationship is what makes it so compelling and charming.
The music itself is catchy and timeless, with a fantastic all-singing, all dancing opening number to set the scene. Seb’s jazz scenes are fantastic, and his journey into more modern music is really cleverly done. Mia & Sebastian’s Theme in particular is beautiful and is used masterfully throughout the film to romantically connect the audience with the relationship.
An homage to classic cinema, the film is shot beautifully in widescreen to give us some stunning visuals. The dancing under the streetlights and, quite literally, amongst the stars creates a nostalgic but not over sentimental feeling. Though it’s a modern day story the wardrobe and sets hark back through the decades making it feel timeless.
MASTERPIECE. Musically, visually, and emotionally stunning. Best film of 2017 already? An instant classic.