REVIEW: La La Land

December 20, 2016

Review, Theatrical, This Week 3 Comments

"It’s simply impossible not to completely fall in love with."
LLL d 41-42_6689.NEF

REVIEW: La La Land

Sophia Watson
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Director: Damien Chazelle

Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K Simmons

Distributor: eOne
Released: December 26
Running Time: 127 minutes
Worth: $19.50

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

It’s simply impossible not to completely fall in love with.

Hollywood rarely misses a chance to tell us all how great Hollywood is. It’s a wondrous, magic town where stars are born, and glitz, glamour, and fame lay around every sun-drenched boulevarde – or so they would have you believe. Little does Hollywood document the many personal shoppers, pet psychologists, and “my career is blowing up” characters that flood Melrose Place and describe BBQs as networking opportunities.

La La Land is one of those brilliantly rare have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too type scenarios, where writer/director, Damien Chazelle, manages to tell a truly honest, modern Hollywood tale with hyper-stylised classic Hollywood panache in the spirit of musicals from the 40s and 50s.

Set in the starry-eyed metropolis of modern-day Los Angeles, Emma Stone plays aspiring actress, Mia, while Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is a struggling jazz musician trying desperately to bring classic jazz back into mainstream popularity. The pair fall in love, and before they know it, their hopes and dreams are intertwined. But just as the city brings them together, LA threatens to tear them apart.

You might know 31-year old writer/director, Damien Chazelle (yes, that’s right, he’s only 31), for his breakthrough feature, Whiplash (2014), which was nominated for a slew of enviable awards, including an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Best Director (narrowly missing out to Birdman on both counts). La La Land marks Chazelle’s third theatrical release, and holy freaking hell, this kid is a goddamn cinematic genius.

Here, Chazelle brings together two opposing forces: the brutal reality of Hollywood showbiz and the sugar-coated, glossy spectacle of vintage musicals. To give you some idea without giving anything away, if Barton Fink (1991) and Sunset Boulevard (1950) had a baby, it would be La La Land. In the hands of Chazelle, the film is a tour de force, demonstrating all the finesse and intuition of a veteran filmmaker; he may well be on his way to becoming the Billy Wilder of modern cinema.

But in the tropes of every classic Hollywood musical, it’s the leading duo who give a film that memorable, ever-lasting quality. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are nothing short of glorious as two people desperate for success in an unforgiving and vicious industry, trying frantically to keep on their rose-coloured tinsel-town glasses.

Stone and Gosling achieve the impossible here: revealing the brutality of showbiz while simultaneously romanticising it. The pair are equally matched in their ability to bring such emotional heat to their roles, all the while dancing and singing to wonderfully kitsch choreography. It’s utterly joyful to watch, particularly Gosling, who is surprisingly quite a good mover – who knew?

And speaking of which, it is arguably Chezelle’s understanding of the hardcore traditionalist choreography and score that propels this film to become something extraordinary. It feels like he is giving you a little wink and a nudge; pointing out what Hollywood used to be within the trappings of what it has become. It’s a layered, delightfully nuanced piece of cinema from aesthetic to sub-text.

La La Land is daring, imaginative and moving. It re-invents the Hollywood classic for a new age, creating the kind of movie magic that sends you out of the cinema on a high. Even those among you who just cannot stomach a musical (totally understandable, by the way) will absolutely dig this film. Trust me, you won’t be able to help it. It’s simply impossible not to completely fall in love with.



  1. Dale Fisher

    This is a brilliantly executed film with wonderful performances from the two leads. For a film that contains no violence or super heroes it tells a story in a refreshing way with touches of light humour throughout – in other words good old fashioned entertainment like they used to do ( but updated for today ). There is much to enjoy here from the cinematography to the score, the writing… and one walks out of the theatre well satisfied and smile on your face. Not many films these days can achieve that. An instant classic.

  2. Brian McGann

    I just saw “La La Land” for the second time and can honestly say that this is one wonderful film. I smiled for most of its 2 hours running time. The 2 leads are brilliant-Emma Stone, especially, really deserved her Golden Globe. Damien Chazelle is a cinch for an Oscar and the score-well, it’s perfect. La La Land has made my Top Ten films of all time list. Can’t wait to see it again and again and etc.

Leave a Comment