It’s hard to believe that director Damien Chazelle is only 31 years of age and in just his third movie, he produces something as magical and captivating as La La Land. The movie has been tipped for huge success this year and it’s no wonder. Given the hype, it’s easy for expectations to rise to dangerous levels only to leave a disappointing taste once consumed, but La La Land reaches those steep heights and leaves its audience wanting more of a taste.
The plot is simple enough; Ryan Gosling plays Seb, a failing jazz musician, with an aching pain for the fading genre, who we see at the start of the movie losing his job as a restaurant pianist. Emma Stone plays Mia, a struggling actress seeking her big break in Hollywood, pouring her heart out in auditions only to be turned away in double quick time.
Despite a brief encounter on the night of Seb’s firing from the restaurant, the pair is reacquainted coincidentally at a pool party where Seb is playing in a humiliatingly cheesy pop band. The encounter leads the couple to a Singin’ In the Rain-esque skit with an enchanting Los Angeles backdrop. This is just one of the many examples of Chazelle hinting at a variety of classical musicals that the project tips its hat to. But Chazelle wanted a mixture of the charm of a musical with the grim realities of everyday life and once the pair fall in love, they begin learning a lot from each other’s passions, helping to discover how to fulfil their dreams.
Just five minutes into the movie and you know you’re in for something special. The opening scene is a vast musical sequence set on the busy highways of Los Angeles and this scene alone illustrates the brilliance of cinematography and choreography that is apparent throughout the rest of the movie. La La Land is full of colour and vibrancy, preserving those musical traditions, but all the while balancing the serious nature of these two characters.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have had plenty of on screen experience together and it’s difficult to find a pairing in (real life) Hollywood with such mesmerising chemistry. They are both fantastic, making their characters incredibly believable, maintaining that balance of cheekiness and charm with grit and reality. Stone in particular produces arguably her best performance to date; witty and charismatic yet vulnerable while Gosling is also impressive as the tough but deeply pained Seb.
They are two characters you can’t help but fall in love with along with everything else associated with La La Land. It’s charming, funny though heart-breaking and punishing at the same time amongst all the colour and flair of the brilliant musical mayhem that is just so captivating. By the end, you just want to jump straight back in and do it all over again.