2016 was a year of terrible, depressing drudgery. 2017 is looking to be even worse with the hangover from the decisions we made last year. But to keep us going movies can be a means to explore the problems within society in a safer way or to provide distraction and escape to other worlds, happier ones, or remind us of happier times. Enter La La Land, a film directed and written by Damien Chazelle, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, a movie that harkens back to those old 1950’s musicals like Singing in the Rain, or Top Hat. It is a formula that has seemed to be a smash success, as La La Land swept the golden globes, winning not only Best Comedy or Musical but also Best Film. So does La La Land provide a brief glimpse of a hopeful bygone age or is it something that should be left in the past.
La La Land follows two main characters, Mia (played by Emma Stone) and Sebastian or Seb (Ryan Gosling). Mia is a struggling actress working as a barista while Seb is an aspiring Jazz pianist with dreams of opening his own club. Through a chance encounter they begin a whirlwind romance that changes their lives for the better, but ultimately their betterment comes at a cost.
First, let us address the performances; while there are other actors who provide great supporting roles in the movie, the film inevitably belongs to the two leads, Stone and Gosling. If you have seen Crazy Stupid Love, you know what great chemistry the two have, and now that that chemistry is carrying the whole movie you can see it for a glorious two hours. Just one note, the end credits place Gosling’s name first among the cast, and while he is a fine actor, and great in this film, I would argue that Emma Stone simply blows him out of the water and that the film in its entirety belongs to her. Stone can balance confidence, strength and vulnerability with ease creating an entirely likeable and believable character who we route for and cheer for and well up with tears for. To put it simply Emma Stone in this film proves herself to be a fully-fledged star.
The work behind the scenes is also impeccable. The use of colour for one is refreshing, with a bright vibrancy that really livens up the musical numbers. Speaking of the musical numbers, they are superb. While it is clear that Stone and Gosling are not a triple threat to rival the likes of Gene Kelly or Ann Miller, it is also evident that they have put in a tremendous effort to pull off the dances and songs, which probably only require a second viewing to lodge them firmly in your head. With music by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Pasek and Paul, and dances choreographed by Mandy Moore these modern imaginings of classical musical numbers are a joy to watch and will be a pleasure to sing along to when rewatching on DVD or Blu-Ray. Linus Sandgren the Cinematographer and Tom Cross the editor, construct scenes of elegance, grace and joy, especially during the film’s final set piece with great and imaginative sets provided by Production Designer David Wasco, that it is impossible not to have a smile on your face through the entire film.
While I would question whether it deserves all the awards that it has got, I will not deny that it is a ride that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I would highly recommend that anyone goes to see it.