It runs in my family: We all hate musicals. That attitude towards the happy-clappy, high-pitched screaming, classic-song killing genre of the musical is something that may forever be ingrained in my head, you can’t get it out of me. There’s something irritating and overtly campy watching men and women of all ages prancing around the screen, animated and overly dramatic in their expression, all this makes me cringe with such intensity that it’s a mission to sit for even ten minutes through a musical.
However, today something incredible happened, with only a few choices of what to watch I was persuaded to see La La Land at my local cinema, Damien Chazelle’s latest directorial effort. With my Cineworld card I physically don’t have to hand out money to watch a film, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt giving this critically acclaimed musical a chance, alongside my mates who enjoy these films, though another friend who joined us also shares my dislike of this genre, so I sat with him, honestly waiting for the torture to begin so we could sit together and grimace...
This wasn’t torture, this was pure happiness and enjoyment for two hours. La La Land is one of the best films I’ve seen at the cinema since last years Deepwater Horizon, as 2016 didn’t prove a stellar year for film there was very little that impressed me. My first trip to the cinema in 2017 couldn’t have been any better. For musical lovers this will be a treat, for musical haters, listen to me on this one occasion that this is an unmissable experience and you'll get your moneys worth and then some.
La La Land gets an instant 9.5 from me. Why not a 10 you ask? Well, the opening number on a traffic-jammed Los Angeles highway was, in my opinion, pointless. An ear-piercingly loud mess of falsely happy people running around screaming, leaping from car roof to car roof with the next person trying to sing louder than the one before. Why couldn’t the opening simply cut straight to Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling first encountering one another in their respective cars as they make their way to their respectively unfulfilling day jobs? That’s my only negative and I wanted to get it out of the way because for the next two hours, La La Land is an impeccably scripted, expertly directed and beautifully performed masterpiece. Damien Chazelle, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and the crew are on their way to Academy Awards glory and they can march their way there with confidence, like Emma Stone below!
Whenever Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling work together, magic happens. Crazy Stupid Love proved their chemistry and with, Gangster Squad proved this further as well as their ability to fit any period look, and now this musical reunites this dynamic duo and this is easily their best work, both delivering such flawless and seemingly effortless performances that deserves those shiny gold statues. Stone and Gosling play dreamers Mia and Sebastian, respectively, both working hard and simultaneously waiting for their big breaks. The fact that both these two immensely talented stars trained to play piano, further perfect their singing and dancing skills as well as provide deep emotion in which you can almost literally see them feeling the music just goes to show their dedication to these roles, and whilst I love Emma Stone in Easy A, her performance here is just that bit better, as is Gosling in his career best. I think you'll find it tough to find performances that shine brighter than these two this year.
Out of all the delightful and perfectly choreographed musical numbers and dance sequences, there is one that really made me realise this film is something special. To put it simply, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap dance together in faultless tandem as they look out over LA, the timing, rhythm and total enjoyment of this popping scene left me with a fat grin on my face and I even turned to my non-musical fan friend and nodded as if to say I was more than impressed, he returned the same nod. The pool party scene covers some classic 80's pop and Emma Stone turns on her playful charm as she taunts Gosling's Sebastian from afar.
If you love cinema, and film in general, La La Land features a scene that had a strange effect on me, as if to make me fall in love with film all over again and realise why it's so special and amazing. After realising she has better things to live for, Mia flees a double-date and meets Sebastian in the cinema, as they embrace one another and go in for a kiss, right before the cinema projector reel burns up and the film breaks. They leave the auditorium and visit the place in the very film they saw, the Griffith Observatory, and the scenes from the film they sat through are reenacted in real-time in the most heartwarming and pleasant manner, as the two dance for hours and make this place the setting for a visually stunning song and dance sequence.
Damien Chazelle directs with such confidence, rarely cutting to stop the flow of the action. The majority of shots are unbroken, smooth long takes that weave in and out of the dozens of energetic dancers and the cast. He's confident in letting his actors perform and lead the action, and the way he uses mostly visuals to express emotion and to tell the story goes a long way, as if exposition is a thing of the past. The colours become a key character, with the deepest blues and cool whites filling the streets of Los Angeles, and the warm reds and deep browns engulfing the lively jazz bars. Every single shot makes an impression, and because of these long takes you are allowed to soak it all up with cuts far and few between, again I loved the shots of the valley during the tap dance sequence.
Bar the opening, every single song, piano piece, jazz performance and outstanding dance scene left me in awe and joy, in awe of the technical accomplishments, timing and energy. I'd go right ahead and list every impactful moment, like Mia's audition in which Emma Stone sings an entire song with such calm and passion with no cuts yet again. As for the finale, it's a clash of all the best parts of this movie, saving the best bits for last as Mia and Sebastian relive their time together, and also see what could have been in a surprising twist that shocks but also leaves you feeling very chuffed.
This particular moment, in the photo below, really grabbed me, with the beautiful set design as Mia and Sebastian wander riverside, it's one of the most visually stunning pieces of set design, artwork, composition and lighting I've seen, each of them go hand in hand to create a solid mood to amplify this perfect ending, in which, spoiler alert, the two are no longer together, but upon a chance meeting, their song plays and the two nod at each other, happy to know they've both achieved their dreams and their lives has gone in the right direction. Without being cheesy or campy, this ending works so damn well and again, left me smiling. The best part: The entire cinema applauded at the ending, that rarely happens in England so to hear this made the whole experience feel like I'd just sat through the best theatre show ever.
Go and see La La Land now. Rating: 9.5/10