With all that’s been written in the run up to La La Land’s release regarding its overt homage to the golden age of cinema, I was a little worried. I thought it might be too gimmicky to be of genuine substance. But La La Land is not simply a homage. La La Land brings the golden age into the modern day in a way no other film has achieved in recent memory.
You know that feeling you get when you watch something like Singin’ In The Rain, or It’s A Wonderful Life, when you smile wistfully and pine for the world to resemble what you’re seeing on screen? Well that’s the world of La La Land. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle turns contemporary LA into a colour soaked land of dreams, where romance and sunshine wait around every corner.
His LA is the place we all imagine it to be when we’re young. It’s a place for dreamers, and our two leads Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) have dreams as big as they come. One wants to become an A List actor, the other wants to own a Jazz club. But when they meet, both of them are a million miles from achieving these desires.
They need each other. The belief they have in each other breeds passion in their respective goals and makes them feel that as individuals they can do anything. Perhaps the issue then is that they forget about what they can do as a couple.
That’s all I’ll say about plot, but what I can say more about is the feeling. La La Land has an electric atmosphere about it. Watching this film is like walking into a bar, meeting eyes with someone new and knowing you’re about to have the night of your life.
Following last year’s awards success, Whiplash, Damien Chazelle once again directs with an assured hand, and an obvious love for his subject matter. A one-time jazz musician himself, it is easy to imagine the conversations between Mia and Sebastian being ones Chazelle has had with those closest to him. And just like the so-real-it’s-unbearable dinner scene in Whiplash, there’s another tragic scene set around an intimate meal in La La Land which hammers home the themes and messages of the script and is, at least for me, the standout moment of the whole film.
I haven’t mentioned the myriad song-and-dance musical numbers yet, but sufficed to say they are musically impeccable (even if a couple of the songs are somewhat forgettable). Ryan Gosling lends many of the pieces enormous authenticity by actually playing the piano and doing so in a way which would suggest years of study (though apparently he only took 3 months of lessons). The songs that do hit, hit hard. And you will be singing City of Stars for weeks afterwards.
You will fall in love with La La Land. You will love the palpable chemistry between its stars. You will love the world it presents. You will love the way it brings nostalgia out of history and into the now. You will love the authenticity of a story that dares to deliver truth in place of cliché. And you will love how it feels.