Spectacular and magical.
Personally, I didn’t hold that much hope for La La Land. I’m not really one for musicals, especially those 50’s style musicals, they’ve just never appealed to me. However, it has to be said, La La Land is a masterpiece of film making.
The film centres around the relationship of Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) as they meet, fall in love and chase their dreams. Sebastian wants to have his own Jazz bar, and to bring back the glory days of his favourite music, whereas Mia wants to be an actress, but both require sacrifices. Throughout the film we see the trials and tribulations of both characters trying to achieve their goals. Struggling with money, facing rejection and ridicule, the two characters go through the very real issues and hurdles people face when attempting to ‘make it big’. The film takes a particular look at the film industry with many nods and references to the film making process and to the 50’s musicals the film takes a lot of inspiration from. Big dance numbers, intricate duets and dances, dreamlike sequences, they’re all used to brilliant effect.
The romance and emotion is also so brilliantly portrayed, not only through some great performances from the two leads, but also the dances and the spectacular music. The song ‘City of Stars’, very much the film’s main and most memorable song, is one that really drives home these emotional moments of Sebastian and Mia’s relationship. It’s their song and it’s always used to superb effect, so much so that the last time the song is heard, even just the first few memorable notes, it’s a real tear jerker. I promise you, this song will be stuck in your head for days, maybe weeks.
Another personal highlight for me was the fantastic sets and shots Damien Chazelle (the Director) chose to use. He really made the film feel like a callback to the musicals of old, and their theatre production roots, by using a mixture theatrical like props and sets, not just real locations.
This is built upon with some great uses of lighting, also similar to that of a theatrical production, highlighting and focusing on characters whilst throwing others into shade in order to highlight moments and heighten emotions. My particular favourite use of this is when Mia finds Sebastian playing at the restaurant he works at. It feels truly magical and special.
Furthermore, Chazelle wisely uses cinemascope to gain some very impressive wide shots which only add to the film’s unique flare. The dance numbers and musical numbers seem even bigger and truly special with some spectacular moments filmed all in one take such as the opening to the film.
However, this isn’t your typical happy, cheerful musical as Chazelle very much grounds La La Land in reality. It’s about compromising, struggling, and pushing through. It doesn’t give a perfect neatly tied up happy ending, not that it’s a depressing end, but it’s a real one.
You don’t need to love musicals to enjoy this film, it’s just a fantastic piece of film making. Anyone that truly loves film and the process will adore it. It’s one for the dreamers.