I first watched La La Land six years ago when it first came out at the cinema… twice. It received a lot of hype at the time, gaining standing ovations at various film festival screenings prior to its release. So the buzz around it then put a lot of pressure on it when audiences flocked to see it.
I always get nervous around these kind of films. Because when there’s a lot of hype, it puts my expectations up high. And that means it can be a monumental fall from grace if the movie doesn’t quite live up to it.
With La La Land? Not the case.
If you somehow haven’t seen it, the musical of a story tells a beautiful narrative around a wannabe actress (Emma Stone) struggling to land any kind of acting role in Hollywood to kickstart her career. It also has a wannabe jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) struggling to imbue his passion for traditional jazz into others (and I wholeheartedly confess now, I also do not love jazz… at least going into it).
So where to begin with this? The musical element is probably a good start. Some people love musicals, and some despise them. I can empathise with both perspectives here. If you truly hate every musical ever, then this likely won’t change that. But if you’re willing to be even slightly open-minded, then this film is absolutely my go-to recommendation.
Gosling and Stone have fantastic chemistry, with the songs they carry here having a real weight to them. The initial rivalry between them means they bounce off each other wonderfully in a suave melody and dance sequence to the backdrop of Mount Hollywood Drive, and it only rises from there.
The story itself seems to mimic Hollywood and its culture, rather than act as a love letter towards it. Even the title seems to be something of an ironic stab at how wildly fantastical it’s made out to be against the actual reality.
Damien Chazelle, the director (who is also behind the outstanding Whiplash), uses a similar theme from that film of the grit and dedication in doing something you love. Stone has an incredible scene of acting whilst acting near the start of the film, whilst Gosling similarly lets out this borderline aggressive passion of a speech in the middle.
My final tidbits are just the level of detail in this film. The lighting for one is unusually noticeable for all the right reasons, spotlighting characters and blacking out the rest of the scenery very appropriately. The choreography is outstanding, with some exceptional sequences (particularly the opening number).
The long cinematic shots are also breathtaking, making you wonder how many takes it took for Gosling and Stone to nail some of their moves.
Finally, the story may not end as typically as one would expect but it is still immensely satisfying, and makes sense to everything that came before it.
Probably remains my favourite musical of all time, check this one out.