Release date: 12th January 2017/Watch the trailer here
In 2014, writer and director Damien Chazelle showed us that he knew exactly how to make a film about the appreciation of and passion for music with the phenomenal Whiplash. It’s fitting, then, that his next film would be La La Land: a musical romance filled to the brim with show tunes, spontaneous dance numbers, and plenty of jazz.
At one point in the film, struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is told that he’s stuck in the past, while jazz is all about the future; that he’s too much of a traditionalist. Yet La La Land is the perfect example of something that is both modern and traditional: it nods its head plenty at the movies and musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Age, nostalgic right from the word go – but there’s much that’s relatable about its two leads, even if most of us don’t break out into song at regular intervals (although life might be slightly better if we did).
The romance at the heart of La La Land is between Sebastian and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone), who fall in love over a tap dance (just like all the best love stories begin) with a stunning Los Angeles sunset as the backdrop. The film plays out over the changing seasons of a year, as Mia and Sebastian try to balance their relationship with chasing their dreams. La La Land itself is an entirely dreamlike film, but Stone and Gosling anchor it in reality – even as they take a literal dance across the stars at the Griffith Observatory, there’s something about the vulnerabilities of their terrific performances and the slight imperfections in their voices that makes their breaking out into song to express their love feel surprisingly natural.
For the most part, though, La La Land is a starry-eyed fantasy; even the Los Angeles setting is like something that has been ripped straight out of Mia’s imagination (she works at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio lot, serving movie stars their iced coffees and passing Westerns being filmed on her lunch break). This feeling of reverie is aided by Linus Sandgren’s gorgeous cinematography. Sandgren finds beauty in nearly every shot, while finding heartbreak in others, such as the devastating contrast in how Mia and Sebastian are filmed after having their first fight, compared to how they were shown as they were falling in love. All the while, Stone and Gosling shine, with such organic chemistry that every emotion – happy, sad, or something in between – on their faces resonates within your heart and your tear ducts.
And although La La Land is heartbreaking at times, for the most part it radiates nothing but pure joy. Watching this film is the rare feeling of knowing that you are watching a film that will be regarded as a classic for years to come. It’s a film that you never want to stop watching, that draws you in completely with its larger than life heart and unapologetic, dizzying romance. Meanwhile, the songs themselves will be embedded in your head and heart for weeks, culminating in an unforgettable epilogue to rival that of Whiplash.
La La Land swept up a record number of Golden Globes last night, and no film has ever been more deserving. Damien Chazelle has made nothing short of a masterpiece, every second bursting with sunshine and stars.