What this film is about is the struggles of conforming and not conforming, and all the possibilities and gains that can be found in between. For years, Hollywood has forever been marketed as the land of dreams, yet it’s evidenced by this film that those dreams are crushed down by a pile of bigger dreams that can never find fruition, and even if they do, there can be costs to yourself, your personal life and the relationships that have been formed because of them. Both of our main protagonists in Mia and Sebastian are struggling artists trying to conform to the new age of modern art in cinema and music, while also desperately trying to love, plot, hope, dream and fight for their ‘big break’, even if life’s realities intervene.
With music composed by Justin Hurwitz and Justin Paul, the songs in this film are vivid and alive; whether it’s ‘City of Stars’, ‘Audition’ or ‘Dreamers’, each of these songs tribute the musicals of yesteryear without ever feeling like copycat pastiches. Likewise, Chazelle compliments the songs by filming his sequences in a way that feels blissfully romantic and elegant, while also having its own particular style and class, and Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is beautiful to behold. You can take almost any frame in the movie, and it could be painting that can be found in a modern art gallery. The sequence in particular where our romantic duo visits LA’s Griffith Observatory is simply an unashamedly starry-eyed experience.
Reuniting for a third outing together after Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling both deliver career-best performances, and their chemistry together is at the centre of this film and the emotions are on show without restriction. Emma Stone is the one who stands out the most, displaying a wonderful array of raw emotions that range from ecstatic highs of love and joy to the painful and tearful lows. Ryan Gosling too has never been better, nailing the emotional intensity, while also maintaining a sardonic wit throughout. Also, his piano playing is quite remarkable with no slight hands and cheat cutaways to be found.
During the last year, we were treated to many movies that were special and unique in their own way, particularly from the likes of Arrival, Captain America: Civil War and The Edge of Seventeen. However, La La Land is, not just a bona fide masterpiece, but also the best film of the year bar none, capturing the true nature of Hollywood and Los Angeles in a way that’s both unconventional and surprising. In an age of relaunches, remakes, and reboots, this reignites a long-lost fire in cinema that almost feels like being awake in a wondrous dream like no other.
LA LA LAND / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAMIEN CHAZELLE / STARRING: RYAN GOSLING, EMMA STONE, J. K. SIMMONS, ROSEMARIE DEWITT / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 12TH
Expected rating: 9 out of 10