When was the last time you sat down to watch a film and realised that every second you watched was precious? Where each light, shadow, sound, silence, plink of a piano and flash of red hair (because obviously that’s a given in all perfect movies) was a gift for all of your senses?
What’s that I hear you say? Every film that ever starred ginger Emma Stone is like this? Well you’re not wrong, and La La Land shoots straight to the top of this list.
Set in a slightly altered version of the world as we know it (where spontaneous song and dance is entirely in the realm of possibility) we meet Mia and Sebastian in Los Angeles. Mia, a barista dreaming of Hollywood glitz, and Sebastian, a frustrated jazz pianist grappling with his art form, have several chance encounters and chance tap duets. We tag along with them on the journey of their relationship: first dates and first kisses, big fights and big dance routines; seeing their highs and lows through the gloriously wide eyes of CinemaScope, a widescreen shooting format not commonly used in cinema since the 1960s.
With this in mind, it would be so easy for us to describe La La Land as a love letter to old Hollywood. It’s a term bandied around so often these days, with it being attached to recent successes like The Artist, Hail Caesar and Hugo. We can easily add Damien Chazelle’s second directorial effort to this list, not least because of the nods to the golden age of cinema, but it betters the aforementioned films by injecting much more frank and sometimes harsh realism to the narrative. In La La Land, one minute we’re floating through skies on a waltz and the next we’re yanked back to Earth with the thud of modern life, reminding us that while fantasy and nostalgia are fun, 21st century life is what will always be down here waiting of us.
Production-wise, you’d be hard pushed to find a fault with La La Land. Emma and Ryan are dazzling, polishing up their performing arts and Mickey Mouse Club skills in their third collaboration, cementing their roles as this generation’s Fred and Ginger (oh my god, pun literally but beautifully unintended). The costumes, production design and grading provide so much colour and light, you’d be forgiven for forgetting we’re in the grey and smoggy City of Angels (and possibly thinking you’d taken something narcotic). The story, though sometimes predictable, can keep us engaged through the sheer relatability of it all.
Most of all, you’ll leave the cinema with the warmest of fuzzy feelings. Every fourth footstep will also have a twirl in it, and you’ll start Yelp-ing your nearest tap schools. Maybe you’ll brush off your watercolour set that’s gathering dust and start painting again, or phone up your old bandmates and get together for a jam.
We are a world of dreamers turned cynical, and this film might help us start dreaming again.
View the trailer for La La Land and catch the movie in cinemas now!