Prepare yourself, for if you can whistle, you’ll have La La Land’s signature theme, ‘City of Stars’ stuck in your head during a haze of daydream whimsy for hours upon end. If you can tap dance, then you’re in trouble, because the skip in your step will never go away. Damien Chazelle follows up his Jazz frenzy classic, Whiplash, with an intoxicating piece of modern Cinemascope, that’ll leave you both smitten and tear stained.
Beginning with a song and dance number on an LA freeway, that’ll leave a stupid grin on your face which won’t dissipate for the next couple of hours, we’re introduced to Mia (Emma Stone), a budding actress and erstwhile barista, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with a temporary residency at a speakeasy restaurant. Their first interaction is a honking of a horn, followed by a middle-finger gesticulation. Their second meeting sees Sebastian shoulder barge Mia just as she’s about to offer him praise. And so-on-and-so-forth, until the two finally come to the realisation that they’re dancing to the same beat and a life altering romance of highs and inevitable lows unfolds like a beautiful concept album.
There are so many elements at work here, so many reasons why La La Land is such a delightfully seductive watch, but you can’t look beyond Emma Stone’s lemur eyed brilliance and Ryan Gosling’s charming comedy chops, and together they’re on-screen static electricity. With the chance to flex their dramatic muscles, as well as vocal chords, and funny bones, their relationship is an all encompassing warts-n-all ride.
Their meet-cutes are adorable, the best being a poolside party, at which Sebastian has been forced to play 80’s synth classics by a revenge seeking Mia. This evolves into a skyline backdrop song and dance number, which will no doubt be the films iconic sequence. It’s a movie that pokes fun at the clichés it so gleefully revels in.
But the B-side to such swoon inducing melodrama are those scenes during which the soft-focus romance begins to unravel, and as good as the film is at showing their burgeoning relationship, it’s the rawer, honest plot twists that hit home. The musical numbers might see Gosling and Stone dancing amongst the stars of a planetarium with nostalgic abandon, but when the film grounds their troubles in reality it’s just as impressive.
Chazelle balances the many differing motifs with ease, ensuring La La Land always feels like a whole, never a collection of moods or styles, and in the same way he made the finale of Whiplash one of the most dramatic sequences in recent memory, he uses some nifty creative license to ensure that this has an equally striking, completely unexpected send-off.