An aspiring actress and a struggling jazz pianist meet in the bustling city of Los Angeles. Both have big dreams and they'll do whatever they can to help the other achieve success.
Damian Chazelle floored us all with his impeccable directorial debut, Whiplash, back in 2014. Now the young director is back with a classic style Hollywood musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in their third film together.
La La Land is a perfect throwback to a bygone era of Hollywood. The costumes, locations and songs all fit in the contemporary setting whilst immaculately paying homage to the musicals of old Hollywood.
Emma Stone (Birdman) plays Mia, an aspiring actress who can't catch a break when it comes to her auditions. After a party one night, she wanders into a jazz restaurant and meets Seb played by Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys), a pianist with hopes and dreams to open his own jazz club in LA. The two begin a supportive and romantic relationship filled with song, dance and surprises. Both are struggling to achieve their dreams, but through each other they push one another to find their desired success.
Stone and Gosling are fantastic together. The two have shared the screen twice prior to La La Land and their chemistry is undeniable. Both perform excellently in the musical scenes but also in the dialogue driven scenes. These are funny, flawed and compelling characters both with their own individual aspirations. Whilst both perform excellently in the musical sequences, they're still rough around the edges, which grounds these characters in reality even though they're involved in such cinematic song and dance numbers. Both deliver that classic movie star type feel whilst also creating wonderful characters.
The real star of the film is Los Angeles itself. La La Land is a love letter to the city of angels whilst also pointing out it's many flaws. The film is an ode to dreamers, but it explores the costs of having such big dreams in a city where so many people are also aiming for huge success. The film takes the stereotype of Los Angeles, plays with it and ultimately spins it into something lovely and wondrous. Even though many of us don't live in LA, the film does a great job of establishing the city's personality and atmosphere.
La La Land is an absolute delight, from the opening long shot to the emotional finale. This is a thoroughly joyous cinematic experience and a welcome change from the slog of mindless and disappointing blockbusters that crowded 2016. Chazelle's latest is refreshing but classic. On a technical level, there are some moments that boggled me in all the best ways. Chazelle effortlessly transitions between surrealist musical sequences and raw human emotion, these are characters that we end up loving and rooting for.
Justin Hurwitz does a phenomenal job with both the musical score and the songs that will be stuck in your head for days after viewing. His efforts really support the contemporary setting of La La Land, it feels classic but never dated. The story and journey of these two characters is both soaring and beautiful and they each develop through these fantastical musical sequences.
The film strikes an excellent balance between fantastical whimsy and grounded human drama about the joys of exploring your dreams but the costs that come with such exploration. La La Land is bound to leave you with a song in your heart and a spring in your step. This is a flawless and miraculous cinematic event that must be seen. It sounds cliche, but they truly do not make films like this anymore.