La La Land – Film review
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Amiée Conn
The opening scene of this film sets the tone. We see a motorway filled with cars on a sun scorched Californian day. They are bumper to bumper and there is no movement. That is until the inhabitants of each car throw open the doors, move outside and start to dance! This is a modern day musical, a genre of films that was largely forgotten in Hollywood. There was an assumption that audiences would no longer embrace the contrived world in which these films exist, but this new production sends us back to a simpler age.
This is a new film by Damien Chazelle, the 31 year old writer/ director of Whiplash, which was nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the Oscars last year. This gravitas along with the impressive cast including Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone allowed the producers to take a chance. In truth, there have been other musicals in recent years, they just tend to be animated or else aimed at a teenage audience. It’s rare to get an all singing, all dancing production such as this that is clearly aimed at an adult audience.
The story is quite straight forward. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a moody jazz pianist who dreams of opening his own bar. Mia (Stone) is a struggling young actor who is working in a coffee shop. They meet a number of times under unusual circumstances, thrown together by fate. After initially not hitting it off, slowly the magic starts to happen. But the path to love is often a rocky one and so it proves in this offering.
Having just won the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, along with best Director, Actor and Actress, this is the hot favourite for the Oscars. Talk of this winning Best Picture at the Oscars seem quite bizarre due to the simplicity of the story, but it does resonate at a level similar to ‘The Artist’ which somehow won Best Picture in 2012. There are also films such as Les Misérables (2012) and Moulin Rouge! (2001) which sat well with the Academy. The film deals with the magic of Hollywood and this introspective gaze seems to appeal. When it comes to votes in America in recent times, all bets are off and don’t listen to the polls! We’ll wait and see how it does on Oscar night.
The dance sequences are not throughout the whole film and actually take a substantial break. There are some impressive moments of magic realism, where reality slips away and we get to see them carry out the impossible. If you’re going into the cinema under duress, you’re unlikely to enjoy this tale. Don’t expect a Damascene conversion if you’re there with gritted teeth. It’s probably only likely to appeal to those that are open to it and who most importantly like musicals! It is a sweet and simple tale that will harm the heart on these cold winter days.