Tuesday, 16 May 2017

La La Land


Musicals aren’t for everyone. Some of us love the melodic intervals and the subtle (or not so subtle) embrace between reality and song, while others would rather claw our own faces off than listen to the crux of every scene being interpreted in score. As a frequent member of the latter group, ‘La La Land’, directed by Damien Chazelle, had got me feeling more than apprehensive about how I was going to view it, but given Ryan Gosling’s and Emma Stone’s track records, I knew it was a film that I had to brave.

Set in sunny Los Angeles, Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress who seems to spend most of her time either working as a barista or turning up to auditions that just don’t go anywhere. It knocks her confidence, but her group of friends with their brightly coloured dresses try their best to keep her spirits up. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is also finding it hard to get somewhere in life – he’s obsessed with jazz and has hopes of opening his own jazz club, yet unfortunately for him no one else is quite so passionate, and of course he’s got to pay the bills. Fed up of playing Christmas jingles to nonchalant diners, all he can think about is his dream, and how far away it seems.
After a series of coincidences Mia and Sebastian are introduced to each other and they both discover a new passion – each other. The film follows their relationship up to the highest point and then to the inevitable low, as both of them struggle to manage their careers and their home life.

Love affairs are nothing new in the world of film, and sometimes it can be hard to bring something fresh to the table. Gosling and Stone have it sussed, however – now in their third set of roles as a couple (the other two being ‘Gangster Squad’ and ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’) they effortlessly portray that spark and connection, capturing both the delicate and intense moments of the beginnings of love. Emotions run high the whole way through but, despite it’s clear musical genre, the acting is understanding from all involved, leaving you with something that feels very real. There’s a certain rawness to a lot of the songs that many musicals just don’t have, and the poignant placement of the main song (‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’) throughout the film repeatedly brings back the meaning of the couple’s love.
Chazelle’s talent for directing is also showcased from start to finish, backed up by the many awards and positive reviews that ‘La La Land’ has received thus far. Romantic settings are doused in gauzy palettes of purples and pinks, contrasting with placid greens when it all starts to turn sour. The movement from scene to scene is fluid, and it’s hard not to take notice of how well integrated the music and the dancing is within the film. It resurfaces jazz and the musical genre in a positive way, not once feeling forced or outdated. The most powerful moment for me, however, was the end – a scene both happy and sad that was impossible to look away from, which really cemented everything that I’d taken from the picture so far.

If I’m honest, the only bit I didn't enjoy was the start. The first ten minutes portray a traffic jam full of people dancing and singing on top of their cars - it was cheesy and a bit too ‘High School Musical’ for me, and if you're the sort of person who isn't so big on the musical genre then it may well leave you with your head in your hands. I encourage you to stick with it though (coming from someone who's not the biggest fan of musicals, mind), as from then on it’s a captivating and magical portrayal of love, passion, and the realities of following your dreams.

★★★★★

Hannah Read


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