La La Land: Fresh Musical Whimsy

La La Land oozes with a gorgeous, vibrant energy from the first spectacular dance sequence to the very last curtain call.  Starring Emma Stone as Mia Dolan, a young actress struggling to find work in Hollywood, and Ryan Gosling as talented jazz pianist, Sebastian Wilder, the duo keep running into each other by chance in the city of lights, and tumble in and out of love together as they chase their passions.

The film has already made a big splash at the festivals, and for very good reason.  The chemistry between the leading pair is fantastic, as we’ve come to expect from their previous turns as romantic duos in Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).  Both their performances are excellent, and remain strong across the copious musical sequences, scored by Justin Hurwitz.  They are able to pull off cheeky humour, as well as intimate emotional scenes with ease.  Like all musicals, La La Land is not afraid of being excessive or whimsical, which leads to some truly magical moments, all of which are skillfully and beautifully captured by cinematographer Linus Sandgren.  Even if you’re not a musical lover, there is plenty here for you to enjoy.

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La La Land is in many ways a love letter to the bygone age of classical Hollywood films.  It has a loving attention to detail that can only be expected from the director who brought us the Oscar nominated Whiplash (2014), Damien Chazelle.  References to Casablanca and Rebel Without A Cause, beautifully choreographed dance scenes and iconic locations pay homage to the golden age of Hollywood and is shot beautifully on Kodak film to boot.  If it weren’t for the subtle reminders of the present day – characters using iPhones and driving Prius’s – the film would feel easily at home amongst the ’40s and ’50s films Chazelle so clearly adores.

Despite the underlying nostalgia, La La Land is a welcome breath of fresh air amongst increasingly stale blockbuster fares.  Everything from the music (I was humming my way out of the cinema), to the costumes, to the cinematography, to the original script and score, is impossible to fault.  With the spectacle that is La La Land, Chazelle has injected new life into the musical genre.

Few films have that incredible ability to fully absorb you in their world, but La La Land has nailed it.  When the credits rolled it was like being awakened from a beautiful surreal dream, and my only regret was that it could not go on forever.

Score: 9.5/10

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