Review: La La Land

There was definitely a question before writing this review of “Is there any point?”, there’s been little differentiation between most reviews because it has charmed its audience off their feet, shown by the rather quotation of them on a selection of La La Land posters, but decidedly I still wanted to talk about this film. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian, a struggling actor and a struggling jazz musician falling in love against the backdrop of Los Angeles but are tested as their passions pull them apart. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, scored by Justin Hurwitz and of course winner of a record breaking 7 Golden Globes.

One of the most advertised parts of the films was its gigantic opening number, taking over part of a free way to perform a song and dance number was definitely a massive undertaking but it was a great idea to open the film and smoothly move into the story. It does have its issues however, the overly soft nature of the singing means that you can’t perfectly hear what’s being sung and it just sits gently on top of the amazing music underneath and the consequence of that means what should be an explosive opening number is not quite so which is underwhelming but forgiveable for reasons that will be explained later. There’s also the slight problem of using singers and dancers that are professionals before introducing the films leads (Stone and Gosling) who aren’t exactly great at either of those things but the chemistry and charisma of the two does override that. Usually it would be a disadvantage to say that two performances are exactly how you know they’re going to be but not with these two actors, getting the exact on-screen spark and sarcastically romantic repartee is an absolute advantage but the surprising factor is, that’s not the best aspect of their performances. When things become troubled and success gets in the way of their relationship is where Stone and Gosling really shine and draw you into their world, attaching you to their characters, flaws and all. The charm and suave of Gosling’s jazz fanatic and the sweetness and quick wit of Stone’s actress are an extremely appealing factor to the film but that’s more of a precursor for the emotion they bring as things develop, which is extremely captivating.

It can’t be skipped over the genius that Damien Chazelle has demonstrated here, he hasn’t tried to simply recreate the Hollywood musicals we’ve known and loved for years, he took that format and made a film that’s simultaneously a love letter to those famous films and a true modern musical which has been sorely missing from the box office for many years. It’s also a fantastic story, it’s not a few songs strung together by sparse dialogue, it’s a genuine story of two people entwined with beautiful music, it’s safe to say Justin Hurwitz career has just fallen into a pool of unlimited possibilities, music which builds and falls and doesn’t only follow the emotion but feels like a genuine part of it. Of course there are the supporting actors of namely John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt but there’s no misgivings for a second that the entire focus isn’t on Mia and Sebastian and every other presence is entirely for the purposes of the story and not to actually get involved which is a slight shame but as it continues to be captivating for its entirety, it never becomes a problem.

It’s quite possible that watching La La Land having somehow avoided the hype that has swarmed this film for the last year, and unbelievably so for the last six months, would improve it only further and it’s a real shame that as a film fan it was impossible to avoid the chatter surrounding it. Yet it’s undeniable that La La Land is a delightful film, to make you happy, sad, hopeful, cynical, pull a tear or two and get your toe tapping, it’s an unusual surprise to go into a musical and be swept off your feet not by the elements that are universally tied to the genre, the choreography, the dancing, the singing, the general theatricality of it but to actually just get caught up with the characters and their relationship most strongly but it’s no lesser an experience for that. It’s rare to come out of a film thinking it’s not exactly what you expected and have it be positive but this is that exception, it’s honestly an enchanting film which you can reminisce about while listening to its wonderful and exceptional soundtrack, because it will be stuck in your head for days either way, even if you don’t fall in love with the film, you will with Hurwitz’s music.

Verdict: 9/10

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