Let’s be honest: nobody could anticipate that writer-director Damien Chazelle would follow up the superb Whiplash with a full-blown Hollywood-set musical. Yet, as surprising as that may be, what’s less surprising is that La La Land is an absolute delight. Arriving on an unfaltering wave of hype, and cleaning up at this past weekend’s Golden Globes, La La Land is one of those rare cinematic spectacles that not only lives up to but exceeds expectations whether you’re a fan of musicals or not.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, sharing the screen for the third time, are star-crossed lovers Seb and Mia, whose romance blossoms amidst the harsh realities of making it in tinseltown and attempting to pursue their dreams. For him, it’s his music and the dream of opening a classical jazz bar, for her, dreams of a career on the silver screen. The whole world, it seems, is out to stop them though, but while they at least have each other, they do also have a song or two to light the way.
Opening with a belter of a gridlock-set chorus number, La La Land puts its best foot forward by allowing its leads to flourish and bask in their unquestionable appeal. Sharing an easy, instant and infectious chemistry, the pair are never less than scintillating in a film which pushes merrily past the two hour mark, yet – by portioning out its musical segments accordingly (there can’t be more than six full songs) – it’s an experience that never outstays its welcome. Chuck in a colourful supporting cast, including Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, and a cameo by Whiplash alum J.K. Simmons, and the stage is set for a musical that balances its reverence for the musicals of old with enough contemporary flare to keep things fresh and interesting.
Director Chazelle more than has the chops for such a venture, packing in some terrific visual set-pieces and a much-needed rollicking energy. With a solid jazz-inspired score by Justin Hurwitz, some terrific choreography by Mandy Moore (no, not that one), and a pair of winning leads with sizzling chemistry and great comedic timing, La La Land’s a grand old time worthy of a song and dance.
La La Land is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, January 13th; rated 12A. Check out the trailer below.