I feel like it’s been a long time since a film has had as much hype around it as La La Land. Whilst this is a blessing, as it gets you into the cinema (although to be fair, a musical featuring Ryan Gosling was always going to get my vote), it’s also a curse as it sets expectations sky high. Fortunately, I really loved this film.
It’s the story of Mia (Emma Stone) a struggling young actress currently working as a barista, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who has just been fired from his latest gig. Both of them obviously dream of ‘making it’, Mia in films and Sebastian in opening his own jazz club and the film follows their relationship and their artistic journeys.
On the surface, this might not seem like much, but the writer and director Damien Chazelle just makes the film look beautiful (with the help of cinematography by Linus Sandgren). It’s shot in a style reminiscent of the early Hollywood musical films that it’s mimicking, and the way the dance sequences are shot is really vivid and exciting and makes you really feel immersed in the musicality of the scenes. On the other hand, when the scenes are focused intently on Mia and Sebastian’s relationship the camera feels so intimate that you almost feel like you’re intruding on their relationship. I also loved the sound design of this film which picked out the sounds of music, and even footsteps in a really brilliant way. The costuming, designed by Mary Zophres, is also brilliant and I’d be quite happy to have Mia’s wardrobe delivered to me. Really, the last time I felt so impressed by a film’s aesthetics was probably The Artist which came out a few years ago and that I also loved.
A film about a relationship obviously hinges on the two lead performances, and Stone and Gosling are really, really good. They have great onscreen chemistry (as seen in the super fun Crazy Stupid Love) so feel like a really genuine couple. Both their performances are really natural, and it did genuinely feel like you’re watching people you know. Both Mia and Sebastian are flawed characters but they do just feel truly genuine.
And, as it’s a musical, I feel like I should touch on the music. Composed by Justin Hurwitz, the music is catchy without being irritating, and I loved ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’ a piece of classical music that is essentially ‘their song’. The lyrics are written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who are up & coming Broadway writers, and whilst some of the rhymes are a bit forced I did particularly like ‘City of Stars’ which has recently won a Golden Globe and ‘The Fools Who Dream’. Whilst none of the vocalists (aside from John Legend obvs) are necessarily strong singers, the music really works with their voices.
All in all, after this rambling rave, I would really recommend checking this out if you’re a fan of musicals or just truly old school films.