First of all, oh my gosh. Second of all, oh my gosh! Yes, it’s a film that everyone’s talking about and, yes, it’s picked up a ridiculous amount of awards and nominations, so there’s always the chance it’s been over-hyped but, trust me, it’s worthy. Boy, is it worthy.
La La Land sees His Royal Hotness (Ryan Gosling to those of you without eyes!) and All-Round Cool Chick (aka Emma Stone) team up on the big screen for the third time in, would you believe it, a musical! Yep, you read that right; all-singing and all dancing, genuine Hollywood glitz and glamour. He’s a jazz pianist who wants to open his own bar but is stuck playing Christmas songs and 80s ‘classics’ and she’s an actress working in a coffee shop who can’t seem to get past the audition stage. They’re good for each other, they push each other and keep the dream alive, but when Sebastian catches a break and Mia is left behind, the spotlight dims and the glitter fades, leaving our favourite couple fighting to keep the dream, and their relationship, alive.
Yes, it’s weird seeing HRH bust out a tune at first (not in a cringey way, like Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia) but it takes all of two seconds for you to warm to this new side of him. Seeing him, hands in pockets, casually tap-dancing alongside Emma Stone, is almost as swoon-inducing as that scene in Crazy Stupid Love. These kids have crazy stupid chemistry and I hope they continue to be cast alongside each other every few years. Eva who?
There’s more to La La Land than one of my favourite on-screen couples, although they are the heart and soul of the film. The film itself is beautiful, charming and whimsical. Think Crazy Stupid Love meets Amelie meets Once More With Feeling (that musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – really!). In the opening scene you’ve got commuters bursting into song during a traffic jam, a while later Seb and Mia are literally dancing amongst the stars and later still Emma Stone breaks your heart with a ballad about dreamers. It’s a powerful and moving film, taking you from toe-tapping fun to silent wonder in a matter of minutes.
It’s a helluva production too. The direction/choreography is faultless, with the camera moving through crowds of dancers with total ease. The set design is incredible too, with stunning LA scenery. It really is a love letter to the city (and film itself), much like the short film collections Paris Je T’aime and New York, I Love You. I haven’t been this aware and in awe of a film’s production values since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And, as that’s my all-time favourite film, that’s high praise indeed.
Finally, you can’t talk about a musical and not mention the music. La La Land isn’t one of those musicals where the story stops for a big show tune; the music is weaved seamlessly into the film and it is very much a part of the story. There are people in this film who clearly have a career in music/musicals rather than film, not least John Legend, but Ryan and Emma more than hold their own against them. One song (City of Stars) pops up time and time again and it’s so beautiful that I’ll be streaming the shit out of it over the next few weeks. I’m tempted to find it and embed it here but you really need to ‘see’ it first.
If you’re ‘not a fan of musicals’, please don’t let that put you off seeing this gorgeous film. It really is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Here’s to the fools who dream.