To La La Land we go for the new film by writer and director Damien Chazelle (who previously made Whiplash), who brings us this new take on the classic musical films of Hollywood, that delivers a musical in the traditions of Hollywood but also with more emotional complexity and depth than you would expect.
Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist who ambitions to start his own jazz club have recently faltered since he lost his savings to a con man. Stone plays Mia, an aspiring actress working in a coffee bar on the Warner Brothers lot, and working from audition to audition with little success. The two are drawn together through a number of chance encounters and so begins a love affair including some wonderful song and dance moments.
The two have worked together before in both Gangster Squad and Crazy Silly Love and their onscreen chemistry remains and works perfectly for this film. What this film brings though is a whole new level of both of their previous work with singing, dancing and on Gosling’s part, piano playing.
The initial half of the film is stuffed with musical set pieces from the opening number with cars in a traffic jam, through to ‘Fred and Ginger’-esque sequences between Gosling and Stone. There is less a standout song, rather more a standout musical melody that weaves through the film (and is the basis for the ‘City of Stars’ song that does feature).
It also is as much a love story towards Hollywood itself with its references and usage of previous film classics and sentiment towards LA.
There is a point in the film where Gosling is discussing Jazz with a fellow band member. The band member says that although their music is different to the classics of the past, the people that created that classics were innovators. As a result, new work has to not just repeat the old, but create the new and be bold enough to be different from the past that inspires it…
This dialogue gives us context about the structure of the film itself. The song played at one point that starts as classic jazz, but then shifts into something new but with the spirit of the past, seems to capture the principle of the entire film itself.
Chazelle is clearly passionate about music within film and what he has made here is not just a traditional musical, but with stronger emotion and more of a character romantic drama than I expected. I suspect how Sebastian talks about Jazz in the film Chazelle may well in part feel about musicals in real life.
Not only is La La Land a love letter to the best and brightest of Hollywood and a re-emergence of the classical musical style, but it also shifts through the film and challenges the genre itself. This is the real strength of the film.
From both the quality of the film, and the generous sentiment towards Hollywood, this film will do very well through the awards season, and that’s not unfair.
That’s what I thought – what about you? Have you seen it? Comment below and share your thoughts…