If Whiplash was a masterpiece of dramatic tension and a story of single minded ambition, Damien Chazelle’s latest feature takes its cues from the Technicolor musicals of Hollywood’s golden age, evoking the spirit of MGM’s Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris by way of West Side Story and a cacophony of other richly cinematic features of the past 80 years.
Mixing this contemporary L.A. romance with the more fantastical elements is utterly captivating. From the opening number on the freeway we’re transported into a vibrant world of song, dance, love, loss, hopes, dreams and drama. Even the stoniest hearted or those with a steadfast aversion to jazz hands will find the sumptuous visuals, choreography and performances hold treasures beyond the trappings of the genre.
Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren romanticise the cinematic language and heritage of the silver screen in much the same way we saw with Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist and The Coen’s Hail, Caesar! With moments of joy and heartache being masterfully woven into the narrative in ways that leave you in wide-eyed wonderment and utterly heartbroken.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone perform with all the verve and chutzpah of a modern day Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Gosling’s knack of physical comedy and timing, seen earlier this year in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, is matched only by his ability to carry a tune. Honestly… who knew? Stone brings the same emotional resonance we saw in Alejandro G. Iñàrritu’s Birdman. Her character’s journey from coffee shop barista to auditions and beyond is perhaps the more rousing of the two, leading to one standout song that will shake you to your core. Their chemistry is what makes the narrative work as you find yourself immersed in their relationship. The ups, the downs, the triumphs and the knocks, you feel it all.
More than any other film I’ve caught this year, La La Land perfectly encapsulates the distinctive themes and textures of a bygone time of theatrical cinema. The songs are infectious, the visual design impressive and both Gosling and Stone lit up the screen and my heart for the 128-minute runtime. This is a feat of pure escapism that cinemagoers could really do with right now, so come January, be sure to watch this on the biggest screen possible!
La La Land is released in UK cinemas on January 13th
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