★★★★ – “A love letter to Classic Hollywood.”
La La Land is written & directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt and J. K. Simmons.
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
Who said Hollywood’s Golden Age died back in the 1960s? In Damien Chazelle’s remarkable La La Land, it’s back in full force with all the glitz, glamour and fun energy that made the classics so enjoyable.
Our two wonderful leads; Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) and Emma Stone (Mia) are an absolute treat to watch as they pursue their dreams, taking us through the colourful city of Los Angeles around them. Presented gloriously in CinemaScope and featuring a stellar soundtrack, La La Land is a triumph in filmmaking only to be experienced in cinemas. The technical skill on show is undeniably careful and gracious, acting as the perfect supplement to the aforementioned leads.
As the screen opens and the CinemaScope logo appears, we pan down from the pale blue sky over the city and straight into the first musical number, which may need some time to settle but nevertheless kickstarts the film with joy. At first glance you’ll notice and appreciate the presence of a soft and subtle film grain, created only when shot on celluloid. Natural lighting is used for most scenes in the film, as well as real locations all over the city of Los Angeles, securing a sense of realism in the story and characters.
Once the rocky first quarter comes to an end, the real magic begins. With some fine trimming, La La Land could be a perfect masterpiece, but the duration of the film (or rather, the time management) is my only complaint. Chazelle’s writing is spectacular and reminiscent of his previous project, Whiplash, which also saw major success and received high approval from critics and filmgoers alike. A small cameo from J. K. Simmons branches the gap between this film and Chazelle’s last, with Simmons playing a similar character to that in Whiplash.
The soundtrack composed by Justin Hurwitz is pumping with life, carrying on his funky jazz style, accompanied by Stone and Gosling’s strong vocals. The numbers are entertaining and skilfully performed, with vivid visuals to aid the original score, also composed by Hurwitz. In preparing for their roles, Stone and Gosling were required to learn to dance and move to specific cues during the lengthy one-shot takes. Gosling also decided to learn the piano in order to dismiss the need for CGI doubling, further showcasing his talents as we watch in admiration.
La La Land is a work of art, a true love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age. Although taking place in the modern world, with smartphones and social network tools, Chazelle takes a unique approach and combines old and new. There are vibrant sets and exciting sequences that seem as if they’ve been pulled directly from the 50s/60s alongside modern vehicles and coffee shops, providing a marvellous backdrop for our characters to interact with.
Each and every individual involved in this project have done a remarkable job in creating a world everyone can get happily lost in. Awards season is underway and La La Land has already made Golden Globes history with its impressive 7 wins, further attracting filmgoers and selling out show after show around the world. This is simply fine work and all involved should be greatly proud of this superb accomplishment.
Here’s to the ones who dream.
Verdict; Lights, camera, action! Classic Hollywood is back with Damien Chazelle’s hugely entertaining and dazzling La La Land.
La La Land – ★★★★ (8/10)