Staple screen couple Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are back together – their third go-round together, following “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Gangster Squad” – in a – wait for it – ”Moulin Rouge”-esque romantic musical set in modern day LA. They say variety is the spice of life, right?
“La La Land” is like a leech – it sucks away at you, and you don’t notice the affect it’s having on you at first, but soon enough you’ve realized it’s grown on you.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the noir libretto may be set in the 1920s, with ‘Gatsby’ inspired costumes and a Jazz influenced soundtrack. It follows the protagonists Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) as they chase their dreams of the spotlight as an aspiring actress and Jazz musician respectively. Their dreams get complicated as they fall in love as their passions pull them apart at the same time. The title of the film lends itself to the mystery and intrigue of Los Angeles, a city of big dreams, where it’s easy to get swept up in the glitz and glamour. Both Stone and Gosling put in a convincing performance, telling their stories through song, dance and music. Gosling, having learnt tap dancing and piano for the role, does a stellar job as a wannabe-musician…until he opens his mouth to sing. Good looks don’t translate into good singing, unfortunately. Similarly, Stone’s voice, while pleasant, is a little weak, but you can forgive them as the storyline is relatable and cutesy, for lack of a better word. They’re actually at their best in the film’s quieter moments.
Even though they’re not the strongest singers out there, you can’t help but be sucked in by Stone & Gosling’s on-screen chemistry, suggesting that writer-director Damnien Chazelle was never going for accomplished musicians but rather the familiar “old Hollywood” style faces to tell the story.
There’s a whole exchange in the film that would seem to echo the filmmaker’s own sentiments about why he’s done the film.
“It feels really nostalgic to me”
“That’s the point”
“Are people going to like it?”
Unquestionably Chazelle is letting the audience know he’s not so much doing this for the audience, as he is himself and the segment that grew up on Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds musicals. So one point to a lone rebel filmmaker not structuring a movie around what the studio is planning to put in McHappy Meals upon release.
“La La Land” has a lot of faces you wouldn’t usually associate with an all singing and dancing flick (Rosemarie DeWitt and J.K Simmons also pop up), but John Legend is a welcome addition for his smooth, sultry voice.
Unlike a lot of other classic musicals, “La La Land” fails to have more than one really catchy song. For every ”Grease Lightning” there should be a ”Summer Lovin’”. This is where it dips in re-watchability factor. It’s not an epic, and it’s a little vain at times, but it successfully resurrects the feel good, golden age musical with enthusiasm in these Trump-tearing times, so it’s good medicine for the theatre right now. It’s one of the most original and daring films of the year, and is relatable even just on the “career or love” scale.