Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.
Barely recovering from Whiplash acclaim, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up La La Land is already causing a song and dance in the Oscars’ race. And no wonder as this love letter to old-fashioned Hollywood musicals is an absolute dream.
You would have thought the days of big-hearted tap-dancing technicolour musicals wandered off into the sunset with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But Chazelle thrusts the old genre into modern real life, and his assured direction makes for one of my favourite movies of the year.
But Chazelle can’t take all the credit; he definitely owes a dollar to the tip jars of production designer David Wasco (who found Emma Stone’s art deco apartment block), costume designer Mary Zophres (just marvel at the eye-popping outfits) and cinematographer Linus Sandgren (whose long lyrical takes are a thing of beauty).
He’s not the only one on song either, with his cast giving a science lesson in chemistry. No wonder after Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling previously lit up the screen in brilliant rom-com Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad. Not only do they go all-in on they screwball comedy courtship, but their commitment to the cause learning to sing and dance (and piano for Gosling) helps the authenticity- especially in long shots of Gosling on the keys.
Gosling can be a jackass all day long and I’ll still watch him but Stone channels her inner Katherine Hepburn and doesn’t take any of too-cool-for-school shtick – there run in at a 80’s party is hilarious stuff. That’s the beauty of La La Land; it delivers the belly laughs as well as the emotional gut punches, and you’d have a heart of stone not to get a case of the feels.
Speaking of hearts the meet-cute tap dance sequence brought joy to mine - I’m a big Gene Kelly fan - and it’s just one of many throwbacks to old Hollywood musicals like Singin’ in The Rain that’s causing hearts to flutter at the Academy Awards. It’s already the frontrunner to pick up some little gold men with seven nominations at the Golden Globes.
One Oscar that’s definitely a lock is best song for Chazelle’s Harvard University buddy Justin Hurwitz. Musicals live and die on their big numbers, and the melancholic beauty of La La Land is perfectly captured in theme track City of Stars. You can’t help but get swept up with the joyous one-take opening Another Day of Sun, Somebody in the Crowd and Emma Stone’s powerful audition The Fools Who Dream. And even John Legend – in a great extended cameo - turns up with an original funky tune. Though it’s the closing track that really packs a punch, not only for the multitude of imaginative sets they run through – including a nod to An American in Paris – but the emotion on display will not leave a dry eye in the house.
If you’re a sucker for a song and dance La La Land will do a number on you. Damien Chazelle flexes his musical muscle and creates an absolute classic, if you think you’re not the musical type prepare to be swept off your feet.
DVD Releases: 3rd May 2017
Duration: 128 minutes
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Amiée Conn
Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Was at one point set to star Miles Teller and Emma Watson. Teller was dropped from the project in favor of Ryan Gosling, while Watson dropped out to pursue other projects.
Emma Watson turned down the role of Mia due to scheduling conflicts with Beauty and the Beast (2017), while Ryan Gosling turned down the role of The Beast in that film to appear in this film, coincidentally both are musicals.
According to composer Justin Hurwitz all of piano featured in the film was first recorded by pianist Randy Kerber during pre-production. Ryan Gosling then spent two hours a day, six days a week in piano lessons learning the music by heart. By the time filming had begun, Gosling was able to play all of the piano sequences seen in the film without the use of a hand double or CGI.
This will be third movie co-starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They previously worked together on Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were slated to act in Focus (2015) but dropped out. Their roles later went to Margot Robbie and Will Smith.
J.K. Simmons and director Damien Chazelle worked together before in Whiplash (2014), this being their second collaboration.
The movie premiered at Venice Film Festival on 31 August 2016.
It is rumored that the previously cast Miles Teller had lost the lead role in this film due to his performance in the critically panned Fantastic Four (2015) reboot.