It was with trepidation I entered the cinema to see one of the most talked about films of early 2017: the love letter to Hollywood, ‘La La Land’. I was not disappointed…at least I think I wasn’t. There were parts that were perfect, the score boomed and the musical elements of the film, not something I’m keen on, were surprisingly very good. Visually, the film was perfect too, with the lush backdrop of Los Angeles, a living, breathing character of its own.
But, at times, the pace is lacklustre, whether it was down to the late screening I saw, or the plot itself, I found it slow, plodding and perhaps a little bit too self-loving. I liked elements, for sure, but it makes it very tough to describe, the below emoji actually sums it up the best. It has me pondering, thinking and looking for what to love and what to hate, let’s get into what I loved.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the two leads of the piece are exceptional. Gosling is at his gruff best as a man devoted to the artform of jazz music, and begins proceedings as a festive pianist at a restaurant, not ideal for a man wanting to own a jazz club. He’s downbeat, but dedicated. Stone, isn’t too dissimilar, her love is acting, working as a barista on a movie backlot, while dashing off to audition after audition, with little success. The duo’s dreams are key to the film, as we see them evolve, and, in some cases, devolve, throughout the run time, it is all about their wishes, to be something more than they are – like most of us do!
It’s a slow, sluggish start, with the opening musical number, ‘Another Day of Sun’, giving just a dashing of what to expect, without even including any of the main stars, just frustrating commuters sitting in one of LA’s infamous traffic jams. But the film really becomes its own beast once Gosling and Stone’s own stories weave and interlink with one another, with director Damien Chazelle, who’s previous work, ‘Whiplash’ was a favourite of mine, proving masterful. His use of lighting and colour results in some phenomenal views of the City of Angels, and the splashes of bright, vibrant colour across the entire film light up the screen like nothing I’ve seen for a while.
If you begin slightly hesitant, as I personally did, it’s a grower, for sure. Within half-an-hour, I was enjoying Gosling’s failed attempts as a keyboard player at a pool party, a spot of tapdancing (yes, tapdancing!) and the vivid, passionate lead characters. It’s a strength that Gosling and Stone really get across in Sebastian and Mia, as it’s no spoiler to say they slowly fall in love, but they are as in love with each other as they are their passions of music and acting, and in the vacuous space of somewhere like LA, that’s a beautiful thing.
Those unsure of committing to a musical; don’t. The musical numbers are fairly split apart, and they usually hit the spot, provoking humour, heart and a perfect way of telling this provocative story. That being said, I found the middle of the film dragging ever so slightly, with a certain ‘season’ of the film (it’s split into Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall), in particular, really frustrating me! And the spellbinding, if divisive ending, is also another sore point, that really needs to be digested that little bit more, before the cut to black.
‘La La Land’ is pretty compelling, a throwback to many films that have taken the Oscars by storm, hence its almost unprecedented FOURTEEN Oscar nominations, that manages to re-invent and thrill. It’s not perfect, but does a good job of creating an original musical, that isn’t strictly for fans of the genre, not at all. It’s beautiful to look at, will provoke a strong reaction either side of the scale and maybe, just maybe, you might even find yourself humming the odd tune on your way out of the cinema…
Did you go gaga for La La Land? What was your favourite song? Let me know in the comments below!