La La Land (2017).
Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, 10 Cloverfield Lane).
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons.
It’s hard to not get caught up in the hype of a film. Even before its several award nominations, La La Land was being treated as a revival of the musical, despite the genre never actually going away. Perhaps it’s so fantastic then, that the film has brought many people into the musical genre, much like myself.
I’ve never hated musicals, but I would be lying if I said I’d be lining up to see one on the day of its release. The likes of Hairspray, Enchanted, Mamma Mia!, and Les Misérables are all fine films, but ones I’d catch on television or Netflix two years after their theatrical release.
But I was swayed into La La Land for a few reasons. For one, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both fantastic actors and are most certainly deserving of their various award nominations this year. But it was also director Damien Chapelle’s Whiplash that convinced me to get out of my bed and see his most recent work. His involvement in 10 Cloverfield Lane was writing duties, but Whiplash which he both wrote and directed convinced me that there’s truly an amazing talent here. I’d missed Whiplash‘s theatrical run and critical reception, but seeing that La La Land was out soon, I watched it on some streaming service, not expecting much.
After being blown away, it was decided that I had to see La La Land on opening day, and I’m glad I did.
From the opening highway sequence to the ‘magic hour’ sunset dance, La La Land was a delight to watch from start to finish.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a frustrated, struggling jazz pianist. Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista on the set of a Hollywood studio, with aspirations of one day being an actress. They meet during the aforementioned highway dance sequence, Mia is practising audition lines, Seb is waiting for her to move forward. A glare is shared, and they are, of course, destined to meet again.
And when they do, it is a joy. Stone and Gosling have an intoxicating chemistry between them akin to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Gosling portrays this soul who is fixated on bringing jazz back, even telling Mia that ‘jazz is the future’. Maybe not their future, but his future. Gosling has a magnificent trait in being able to hide emotion but invokes it through his eyes at the same time, something I first noticed with his character Holland March in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. Stone too is excellent on all fronts. A clever, comical character gets elevated by Stone’s commitment to her performance. She shares Gosling’s trait in being able to share so much simply through her eyes, like a window into her mind. I simply cannot imagine the film being this good with Emma Watson and Miles Teller as the leads. Gosling and Stone are captivating leads.
All in all the film is a triumph. Chazelle adds another enjoyable flick to his resume, and while Whiplash swept up several awards, I feel like we’ll riding the waves of La La Land‘s success for a few years to come.
Feature image courtesy of Summit Entertainment.