2014’s indie hit Whiplash written and directed by Damien Chazelle was amongst my favourites of that year and had one of the most intense climaxes I’d ever seen, so I was more than excited for his next effort which has garnered much critical acclaim and awards buzz, recently making history by winning 7 Golden Globes in all the categories it was nominated for, the most for any film ever.
It lives up to the hype and then some, I’d seen the trailers numerous times and everyone I’d known who’d seen it loved and/or just enjoyed it. Unsurprisingly it’s one of my favourite movies of the year and quite possibly one of the best musicals ever made. This is an exhilarating, fun, inspiring, uber romantic tale of two people who love and admire one another off one another’s willpower and vision to achieve their dreams in the gorgeous sun drenched city of angels. Its captured beautifully with rich, vibrant, strong colours that are so arresting to the eye, its one of the best looking movies of the year.
The story is pretty simple enough, but then again most musicals are pretty accessible by virtue of not having too much complexity in their narrative. A young aspiring actress falls for an ambitious jazz musician, but the further they both achieve success in their respective careers, the more the threat of them drifting apart as they both reach challenging decisions as to what matters most, being together or being successful in their professions.
From the get go, the movie is brimming with an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere that is just too playful and infectious to sit still to. It’s opening sequence (shot in one take by the way) is along a Los Angeles highway with people of all walks of life parading of the world renowned sunshine of LA and singing aloud their desires to gain success in Hollywood. The dance numbers from the films choreographer Mandy Moore is immense which marries Chazelle’s kinetic, sure handed direction, and he outdoes himself even more so than Whiplash. From then on in the movie had swagger and visual eye candy, with costume and production design that is as just as lovely to look at.
Gosling and Stone ooze movie star charisma, both giving career best performances. Their infectious interplay with one another at times seems improvised, considering this is their third on screen paring together. The love story between their characters are so genuine that you feel their plight and they both know that their meant for each other and to prosper in Hollywood. Speaking of which, the movie does a fantastic job in paying homage to classic Hollywood pf the Gene Kelly/Ginger Rogers era and uses aesthetics such as irises from the 1920’s and Cinemascope framing. don’t watch this film at home by the way, don’t wait until it’s available to stream at home, it needs to be seen on the big screen, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it a lot more. This not only made me fall in love with old Hollywood but Jazz too. I love Jazz anyway so when I knew there was a great deal of it in this movie, by default I was gonna like it to some degree. There’s a sequence where Gosling’s Sebastian makes an impassioned plea to Stone’s Mia to listen to Jazz the way he listens to it as she makes an argument of how disposable it is now, how’s mostly just background noise. This scene is reminiscent of the scene between J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher where he woefully tells Milles Teller’s Andrew Neiman of how Jazz is a dying genre. I saved the soundtrack to my Spotify playlist and it’s great.
The cinematography is absolutely glorious, with panning, long tracking shots that embody Chazelle’s bold and skilful direction. The script by Chazelle is imbued with enthusiasm that inspires both its characters and audience to dream, no matter how many times you get pushed back. To never be easily put off, to never settle for less and lend support to those with that same spirit.
If this earns less than 8 Oscar nominations, I’ll be pretty confused. It’s a frontrunner for Best Picture and deservedly so. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, this is one of the most relatable, funny and breath-taking musicals of all time. It was an absolute pleasure and I hope it does well box office wise, the theatre I was in was packed and I can tell the audience was invested in the story. Couples ought to see it for the sheer weight of the romanticism alone, go see it people!
Rotten Tomatoes reads:
La La Land breathes new life into a bygone genre, with thrillingly assured direction, powerful performances and an irresistible excess of the heart
93% out of 281 reviews