Going into this movie I admittedly felt optimistic about the musical element of it. As a genre musicals are certainly not my favourite, due to a long term fear of the story and dialogue being impinged upon by big cheesy musical numbers that lack depth. I can now say however I have been converted. La La Land is a delight, a real triumph of Tinseltown and its charm for gifted director Damian Chazelle, who wrote the screenplay in 2010 and for years was unable to find a studio willing to finance it without having to alter his vision, and why should they?! It’s perfect.
La La Land combines the stories of struggling Jazz Pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) whom we meet on a jam-packed highway at the beginning of the film where, after an energising musical number, we are witness to an episode of road-rage from Seb towards Mia. Quickly bringing us back down to earth and grabbing our attention for the next two hours, Chazelle throws us into his colourful and dazzling world, combining old Hollywood, dream-like sequences with a relatable realism not so often captured in musicals. Like most young talents who struggle in such a competitive world, the struggle to achieve their goals is heart breaking. You will be witness to scenes of upset, loneliness and the want to surrender, but it is through Chazelle’s clever balance of comedy and drama that makes this film such a joy. You will find comedy in Mia’s cringe-worthy auditions and Seb’s struggle to find work and ultimate dream to open his own Jazz Club, as well as their endearing, developing romance.
The musical that will win you over heart and soul
It is however this film’s surprising and unconventional ending that I believe will truly resonate with audiences world-wide, and where Chazelle sticks to the realism of life. He seems to emphasise the importance of sacrifice and how sticking to one’s path is the key to individual fulfilment.
Enjoy La La Land! And be prepared to shed a tear or two, and a have song embed itself unknowingly within your head.
Reviewed at Duke of York’s Picture House by Hannah Ashwell