REVIEW: La La Land
Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K Simmons
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.