The unstoppable force that is Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land finally waltzes into UK cinemas, but does it have any chance of living up to such high expectations?
Having always held musicals at arm’s length, the all-singing, all-dancing opening number (which was worth the price of admission for many), left me rather cold and the realisation that despite its extremely high praise La La Land may simply not be for me. However, my U-turn began upon meeting barista and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who despite a heated first encounter involving road rage and a further hilarious meeting at a party, begin falling for each other as they unite over a shared sense of their dreams being just out of reach. Suddenly, La La Land had me within its grip and refused to let go. It was impossible not to get swept up amongst the unmistakable chemistry between Stone and Gosling, the pairing of the two is key to the film’s success.
Not only becoming lost within the beautifully choreographed dance numbers against an array of magical backdrops, La La Land is surprisingly funny, with Gosling channelling his outstanding comedic work from 2016’s underseen The Nice Guys. Stone also shines with her unwavering likability and raw talent, with an audition scene that’s on par with Naomi Watts’ exhibition in Mulholland Drive. After being bowled over by its sweet and genuinely funny nature, I was stunned at how melancholic the film became, not only making the joyous moments all the more precious but adding a depth that grounds the film and certainly left a lump in my throat.
With nostalgia-heavy films growing in popularity, it’s easy to assume La La Land is simply just a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood. However, Chazelle tips his hat to his predecessors, but also simultaneously creates a musical that is able to stand alone, with his individual fingerprints all over it.
Not only living up to but surpassing high expectations. La La Land left me with a spring in my step and a heavy heart, and is a superior film for it.