A musical for the 21st century, La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – two of the best actors in recent years, and a brilliant on-screen pairing – this hit film of the year which sweeping up awards all over the place, follows Seb (Gosling) and Mia (Stone) two struggling artists on the Hollywood scene.
The film is about the toll of success – or failure – on an artists’ life, and the highs and lows of following your dream – particularly in the competitive landscape of Hollywood. Seb is a jazz musician who has hopes of opening his own bar, who meets Mia, an actress who is repeatedly being rejected in auditions, looking for her big break.
Damien Chazelle, writer and director, creates many illusions to classical musicals of the Golden Years of Hollywood, in the charming, romantic and humorous way La La Land plays out, and is a love letter to these films. There are dance numbers that will make you want to tap dance on the way home from the cinema and songs which will be stuck in your head for days.
The music of a musical is without a doubt the most important aspect of the film. Although La La Land doesn’t have the razzle-dazzle and big belters of the old classical Hollywood musicals, the musical numbers are quieter, matching the softer voices of Gosling and Stone. But the music is still wonderful, lively and very catchy – hats off to Justin Hurwitz.
The highlight of the film for me was Emma Stone. We have seen her be funny, charming and vulnerable in other roles, but this is something else. She radiates in the role, and provides the audiences emotional link to the film. We might not be in her exact place – a struggling actress trying her hardest – but we all know what it feels like to have a door shut in your face because you’re not quite right. Her face is so emotive and we want her to do well.
And for Gosling, he is once again excellent, and it is fun to see him venture into comedy with another film (after The Nice Guys). He is tough, and his cutting humour acts as a shield so as not to show how saddened he is by not being able to achieve his dreams. Just like Stone, he is not a natural singer (yet has a great voice) but they tackle the singing in a more realistic way than the classical musicals where the signing takes centre stage – literally.
But it is when they are on screen together, either singing, dancing, quipping with one another or even sitting in silence next to each other that shows the brilliant chemistry these two actors have. It is something we have seen before in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad and like many other people, I want to see more films with these two together. The scene when Seb and Mia meet properly at a pool party, after two previous encounters when they have not made the best impression, it is easy to see their relationship is going to be a pleasure to watch unfold.
Whether you like musical or not, La La Land is a film which could appeal to the most cold-hearted person, and even though it seems to flounder a little in the middle, and maybe go on for a few minutes too long, the film feels like it is a classic already.