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Review | La La Land

As we all know, 2016 was a pretty bad year for everyone. Celebrities dropping dead willy nilly, Brexit being an actual THING and a walking buffoon with weetabix for hair became President of the United States. Fortunately, 2017 has already gone off to a flying start thanks to the gorgeously romantic and charming musical film, 'La La Land', directed by Damien Chazelle (of 'Whiplash' fame). An ode to old Hollywood and MGM musicals, 'La La Land' follows the story of aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and aspiring jazz musician Seb (Ryan Gosling) as they become entangled into a passionate relationship that threatens to hinder both of them from following their dreams.

   This was a film that I simply could not stop smiling at. From its big opening number set on gridlocked freeway involving a flash mob to the moving epilogue at the film's end, 'La La Land' churns out buckets of charm without ever falling into the overbearingly cheesy category. The film plays out across the four seasons, starting and culminating with Winter as we follow the journey of our two leads across the breathtakingly beautiful landscape of Los Angeles, which in itself becomes a prominent character to the story. Every scene is shot with splashes of colour and vibrancy, matching the incredibly catchy and infectious nature of the songs themselves in what feels like a big snapshot pf the city of L.A, a place of dream-chasing optimism. Shot in Cinemascope, every scene is bathed in long takes and in pastel hues of blue and pink; the vibrancy of the film matches the soaring pace of the narrative following the ups and downs of Seb and Mia's relationship, and at that, it almost becomes transcendental. You are momentarily pulled into the brightly coloured world that Chazelle has created and you never wish to leave.

   Both Gosling and Stone shine individually within the film, Stone going from audition to audition with such gutso and determination before inevitably crumbling allows the audience to empathise with her - she is our guiding force throughout and our emotional connection. She's as witty, smart and vulnerable than ever, particularly in her defying 'Les Mis' moment with the ballad 'Fools Who Dream', her voice cracking with emotion by the last note. Paired with Gosling's Seb, a disgruntled jazz musician who refuses to let go of the historical breakthrough and inspiration of famous jazz artists, their chemistry bounces off the screen through moments of song, dance and even moments where they do not speak, the silence is filled with a repetitive piano theme that aligns itself with the couple; it is played at the first time they meet, and the last, and completely wraps Mia and Seb in the emotional gravitas of the film.  Chazelle is clearly inspired by his own love of music and it pays off wonderfully in his direction.

  It's clear that Chazelle is a big musical fan, even a fan of old Hollywood movies. Mia works in a cafe at the Warner Brothers studio, amongst the backdrops of the classics (Mia points out the window from which Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart looked out on to Paris in 'Casablanca'), she and Seb have a spontaneous song and dance together as the sun sets over the city in true 'Singin in the Rain' style, their chemistry and dynamic alone recalling certain moments in 'A Star is Born'. This nostalgia never feels outdated or forced, it instead reinforces the charm of the film and it becomes new and fresh, much like Seb's reluctance to join a band that experiments with Jazz, bringing it to the 21st century. This could be a nodding reference to Chazelle himself, being brave enough to write and direct a modern day musical that is, quintessential, a love letter to MGM musicals and old Hollywood. It smashed the Golden Globes, and I'm hoping 'La La Land' recreates this success at the Academy Awards next month.

Deliriously romantic and nostalgically charming, 'La La Land' will undoubtedly put a smile to your face at a time when we really need to keep our chins up. Frenetic and breathtaking at the same time, this is a film that will make you want to chase your dreams, no matter how absurd they may be.
La La Land is in cinemas everywhere now.


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