La La Land is simply stunning. In this cold, wet, miserable winter weather, it’s the dose of sunshine we all need. I feel like I’m just repeating all the superlatives and adjectives already used to describe this film, but it is truly spectacular, touching, uplifting and beautiful to watch.
The film is the perfect update if a Hollywood classic, right from the opening scene, ‘Shot in Cinemascope’ in a deep colour before sweeping down onto a gridlocked highway whose motorists break into song – a little High School Musical, but colourful and fun – before the main characters’ initial meet cute – though this one is not so cute as it involves honking horns and flipping the finger in a moment of road rage.
The next meet cute between Mia, Emma Stone’s doe eyed barista/wannabe actress and striving jazz pianist Seb, played by a fast fingered Ryan Gosling is the clip that we all see in the trailers, when Mia happens upon a jazz bar and is captured by Seb’s soulful tinkling on the ivories. Though all is not as we would necessarily hope… The story of the two ingenues continues from here as they repeatedly bump into each other around Hollywood.
Ryan Gosling’s jazz piano is fantastic – he reportedly did not need a hand double and learnt to play to a high standard within just three months, a fantastic feat and surely something that will help him in awards season – he’s already bagged the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, one of a record-breaking seven Globes that the film received, among Best Actress for Stone, Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Film (Comedy or Musical).
Deep purples, romantic reds, calming hues of green – the film is a palette of opulent joy. The costumes are great, with Mia and her girls in block primary coloured dresses a stand-out as they swish their way down the street to a Hollywood party. There’s lots of shots at dusk: sunrise and sunset where the sky is the most outstanding colours, echoing the blues and purples of the film’s poster shot.
The now iconic scene of the pair dancing on a Hollywood hill the sun rises, Mia in a yellow dress to brilliantly offset the deep purple backdrop rings true to the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And the sequence hints at Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain as Seb swings round a lamppost and something similar to the beginnings of Astaire’s ceiling dance as the couple tap their way along a bench while still seated. It’s quite a sequence, and while they are both impressive and there’s definite sparks despite the lyrics “Not a spark in sight, what a waste of a lovely night”. Yet there is something unpolished about the routine, but that helps it seem all the more authentic and charming.
It’s not just the visuals that are spectacular: the award-winning score is as catchy as it is enchanting. And like the unpolished dancing, the giggles and gasps and interrupted spoken words in the songs make it all the more real and likeable. Emma Stone seems like she has a mediocre voice until she sings in her final audition with such gusto and emotion that it had me welling up: it’s a beautiful belter. John Legend is a great addition to the cast as Seb’s old friend and band mate with the ‘Let’s start a fire’ set-piece sounding like it could have come straight off his latest album album.
Emma Stone’s signature doe eyes and lanky, yet elegant frame paired with Ryan Gosling’s ‘won’t eat his cereal’ brooding face and quick witted jibes are a great pairing. The two have worked together before, and like Astaire and Rogers before them, I hope they continue to do so. Emma Watson was reportedly originally cast as Mia but thy had to re-cast due to her conflicts with Beauty and the Beast. I think Stone suits the role better with her trademark goofiness adding another element of likability to Mia.
Mia and Seb’s relationship seems to revolve around cars. They first meet in a traffic jam, they meet again at a party and Mia gets out of an awkward conversation with a writer by asking Seb to fetch her keys from the valley, which turned into a hung for the cars. Seb always blasts his horn when he arrives to collect my and… There’s more but I don’t want to leave any spoilers but the storey significantly revolves around journeys and cars.
There’s a beautiful symmetry to the whole film, the story told in season’s, although in southern California there’s not much variation in the weather to indicate the transitions. The film comes full circle and is satisfying, although not for reasons you might expect. Look out for the final montage sequence: it is spectacular.
La La Land was enchanting and brought a tear or two to my eyes, although most the time I could simply feel myself involuntarily smiling. Not to echo the words of other critics, but it’s hard not to: it’s a feel-good homage to the golden age of Hollywood and it doesn’t disappoint. Even if you’re not a musical lover, there’s a still a good chance you will fall in love with La La Land – it’s hard to resist such a treat for the eyes and ears. Go see it now!