Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, JK Simmons
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. (Source: IMDb)
After the roaring reception of Chazelle’s debut film Whiplash at London Film Festival 2014, followed by its award success and general critical acclaim, it is no surprise to find him back at the festival once again to present his latest movie La La Land.
The two films could not be more different, yet they share that same affection for jazz music, and the themes of drive and passion. Where Whiplash was a visceral, raw thriller, La La Land is a charming, romantic love-letter to Old Hollywood.
You’ve got a good 4-5 months of buzzing about this movie to look forward to before awards season and its U.K. release, but I will say this; believe the hype.
It’s hard to describe the feeling La La Land gives you. It feels like a film out of time, a classic yet modern film about love, stardom, dreams, and the crushing nature of reality. It’s wonderfully inventive and completely charming. The fact that it’s a musical as well really makes it stand out, and all of the song and dance numbers are incredible. Honestly, if you’re not sold on the first few minutes, I’m not sure you have a soul.
The whole thing would fall apart if it wasn’t for the strength of the leads, but fortunately both Gosling and Stone deliver the performances of their career, and don’t be surprised if you see their names, particularly Stone’s, appear around awards season. It was only after the film that I realised there’s few other speaking characters in this film outside of Stone and Gosling, so them being able to hold the film is essential. Emma Stone is an absolute revelation, exuding life and energy, and yet delivering one of the most heartbreaking scenes you’ll see in a film all year for her big solo number. Gosling is effortlessly charming; he really has that air of a Hollywood leading man from yesteryear, and is the perfect fit for this role. Together, their chemistry is magnetic, and watching them on screen together is a pure delight.
You’d never believe that this is only Chazelle’s second film, and La La Land really cements the fact that he is one of the most exciting young directors at the moment. He really makes his actors work hard, by focusing hard and close on facial expression and emotions, yet also effortlessly crafts the sweeping, large scale song and dance numbers. His use of light and colour is exceptional in this film; LA is in itself a character and he really knows how to get the best out of it! The pops of colour give it a really aesthetically pleasing feel, and the work of cinematographer Linus Sandgren will absolutely receive recognition in awards season.
I could honestly gush about this film forever, and hopefully it’s not presumptuous to say, but not only is this film threatening my top films of the year, it’s knocking on the door of my top films. Period. The wait to see this again in January is going to be agonising, but on the plus side, it gives me plenty of time to rave about it to everyone I meet. Sorry in advance.
It ended? No really, it’s difficult to find anything to put here. My only incredibly minor gripe was that after the high energy start, the film was then given time to settle into itself, which didn’t bother me per se, but I can see how some people would think it would stay at that energy level throughout. Fair warning, it doesn’t, but that absolutely isn’t a bad thing!
I saw this movie and you should too. La La Land is everything I love about going to the movies. It captures that indescribable feeling you get when a story engulfs you completely and just absolutely fills you with joy, sadness, hope, and despair. It completely blew me away, and I don’t doubt it’ll do the same to you. Now how long is it until January…?!