No, cinema isn’t dead. It was just resting.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, JK Simmons
Release Date: 16th December, 2016 (US)
“City of Stars, are you shining just for me?”
I fell in love with La La Land. There’s no use hiding that fact until the end of my review. From the very first frame, I fell head over heels in love with the world that Damien Chazelle has created. The sets are glorious, the colours are breathtaking and the atmosphere is electric. Chazelle’s lens glides gracefully over a myriad of all-singing, all-dancing delights, showcasing a dynamic display of festivity & passion that’s more spectacular than anything you’ve seen this year. And that’s just the opening scene.
Marrying old concepts and new, La La Land is a love letter to classic Hollywood that doubles as an ambitious attempt at re-defining the modern day musical. The bright lights of the City of Angels somehow feel simultaneously old-fashioned and futuristic – as if caught in a timeless threshold between two different eras. The fabulous production design (and its ever-changing scenery) lends itself to this, transporting you through time with every scene transition. Visually, it’s as unique as it is dazzling.
Performance-wise, Emma Stone is absolutely radiant as Mia, a down-on-her-luck actress caught in that all-too-familiar quest for stardom and recognition. Able to captivate an audience with her voice in one moment before leaving them in fits of laughter in the next, her diverse skill set is so well suited to the role it’s hard to believe it wasn’t written for her in the first place. Witty, hopeful and intimate, it’s a career-best turn from Stone that surely makes her one of the favourites in this year’s stacked Best Actress race.
“Here’s to the ones who dream.”
Ryan Gosling is fantastic in his own right as Stone’s fellow romantic lead and occasional onscreen foil, Sebastian – a cynical pianist with a deep reverence for jazz music. Gosling brings his trademark charm to the part, mixing it up with that wonderful sense of humour he displayed in The Nice Guys earlier this year. As a pair, Stone & Gosling are magnetic, taking their chemistry from Crazy, Stupid, Love up a notch and adding a much more intimate dynamic in the process. As cliché as it appears on paper, you get sucked into their romance & your heart swoons as they grow closer together. They are utterly irresistible.
It’s very much a two-man show, so don’t expect much from a talented supporting cast that includes the likes of John Legend & Rosemarie DeWitt. As the indisputable highlight of Chazelle’s last directorial effort, JK Simmons gets a delightful moment to shine in a walk-on role, but it’s sadly all too brief.
Justin Hurwitz’s soundtrack, on the other hand, is magnificent. Much like the film’s visual aesthetic, it flits between various styles and genres, featuring its fair share of toe-tapping classics and emotionally devastating ballads – all performed beautifully by Stone, Gosling & their incredibly gifted musical crew.
Lastly, I want to touch on the film’s unforgettable finale (without going into too much detail). Damien Chazelle crafted one of the most euphoric, mesmerising & heart-pounding ten-minute sequences in cinematic history with Whiplash. No one expected him to come anywhere close to topping that here.
But of course, he does. And it is sensational.