After sweeping up at the Golden Globes and continuing it’s trend by sweeping up many BAFTA nominations La La Land looks to be hot property heading into the Oscars. Damien Chazelle first made everyone take notice of him with Whiplash back in 2014, and this was a love affection with jazz music.
Enter stage left La La Land and Chazelle’s love affair with jazz continues, albeit in a very different way. As you probably guessed, the film is set in the Southern Californian area of Hollywood, and Chazelle makes his statement by opening in a nod to old cinema ‘Filmed in Cinemascope’. He follows the old style opening credits with a big musical number as everyone in gridlocked traffic begins to spontaneously sing and dance on a sunny winters day.
Trapped in this traffic jam is the aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who cross paths as Sebastian angrily lambasts her for not moving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. As the opening takes place, I thought the film stumbled and faltered fearing it was going to fall prey to another story about an out-of-work actress in Hollywood.
Luckily those fears were subdued when the jazz aficionado Sebastian told his own story. Sebastian’s sister invades his space and mentions that he needs to pay his bills and unpack the boxes that are lying around his apartment. At this point Chazelle seems to signpost that our two heroes are big on chasing their own dreams, as Sebastian relays the message that his unpacked boxes are for his own jazz club that he will eventually open.
At Sebastian and Mia cross paths further, my earlier worries seemed to have melted away at this point as it became a joy to watch Stone and Gosling on screen, at first seeming to loathe each other, but then quite quickly falling for each other. But it’s how they fall for each other, in their perfectly choreographed dances in the moonlight (thanks to Mandy Moore) or whether it’s them bouncing off each other as their chemistry lights up the screen.
Their chemistry is a testament to Mia and Sebastian’s passion in their respective fields. Sebastian’s passion for jazz leaps off the screen as he takes Mia on a whirlwind tour of appreciating jazz. Whilst Mia professes her love for acting thanks to grandmother, as she takes Sebastian on a tour around the studio where she works as a barista, pointing out the window from Casablanca. Both characters become impassioned about the other’s craft and push each other to new heights.
My troubles going into this film lay with the musical elements in La La Land, but what happened was a toe-tapping symphony infused with jazz music and the singing of Stone and Gosling, which was really impressive and made the film more enjoyable. But what accompanied these musical numbers was some beautifully crafted sets and scenery, especially when Ryan Gosling sings his first rendition of ‘City of Stars’ on a pier in Los Angeles, with a beautiful horizon as the backdrop.
Chazelle also effectively manages to fill the screen with bold reds, greens, blues and yellows whilst managing to not be in your face with those colours. They remain subtly placed throughout the 120+ minute runtime, but manages to remain effective for La La Land, especially during the musical numbers in the film.
Chazelle’s manages to effectively make the modern-age melt away, as Mia and Sebastian dance around Los Angeles in a colourful ode to cinema of old. Chazelle’s device to break up these moments with a modern take was utterly fantastic such as the phone ringing during ‘A Lovely Night’. But these moments work throughout La La Land as we become invested in the colourful landscape and wonderful characters that are people we can root for: the dreamers.
Although Chazelle’s loving ode to cinema of yesteryear and love of jazz music left me filled with angst in the opening ten minutes, I am so glad those feelings drifted off into the Los Angeles air thanks to the gorgeous setting and the fantastic casting choice of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. His infusion of the musical element throughout La La Land was really effective, but was really capitalised on with the subtle nuances of the jazz-infused score.
La La Land simply put, was an absolute delight to watch unfold on screen. The story doesn’t end up being all rosy for our love-struck heroes, but rather has their relationship tested throughout the seasons, which worked superbly for the story. But what really held La La Land together was the casting of Stone and Gosling as their chemistry really works throughout the 120+ runtime. Their perfectly choreographed scenes throughout the film worked, as they dance through the hills of Hollywood and thus become characters one can truly be invested in. This is an absolute delight of a film, and it’s clear to see the buzz that surrounds it and of course the understandable cleaning of house come awards season.