From the opening sequence, it is obvious that La La Land is something special. Damien Chazelle does not disappoint with his follow-up to Whiplash.
Mia is an aspiring actress, serving coffee in between auditions. Sebastian is a jazz pianist, hoping to open his own jazz club. The pair collide as they chase their dreams in Los Angeles…
Damien Chazelle generated high expectations after the astounding Whiplash. With La La Land, the writer-director proves he can do romantic musical just as well as he did taut drama-thriller. The film is beautifully composed and wonderfully executed.
The narrative runs a mostly smooth course. La La Land focuses on Mia, before doing a clever little rewind to recap Sebastian’s story. If the film seems like it will be a simple love story, then it has duped viewers. Although romance sits at the heart of Chazelle’s film, the love story is more nuanced. The story is a boy-meets-girl romance, yet Chazelle offers more beyond this. The ending of the film is bittersweet. Viewers may think it will end a certain way, but Chazelle defies expectations more than once.
Despite its contemporary setting, La La Land taps into a classic Hollywood nostalgia. The film overtly references this sense of nostalgia in an amusing fashion. It harks back to the classic Hollywood musical in a number of ways. The reprise of songs, the wonderful style, and the tone. The use of colour and lighting is excellent. Chazelle’s direction is wonderful, especially in the astounding first take.
In their third collaboration, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone show their chemistry is as strong as ever. The pair are not the best singers, but this makes their performances more endearing. They are so enjoyable to watch, viewers will find it difficult to contain their smiles. The original music in the film is fantastic. Chazelle’s love of jazz comes through loud and clear once again, and it is contagious.
La La Land is spellbinding. It is easily one of the best films of the year.
La La Land is being screened at BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.