Review by Adrian Taylor
It’s difficult to pinpoint if La La Land is a sign of a new spring or an elegy for the art of the musical. It’s critical and box office success, however, at least mean the option to make these types of films is not extinguished should a future director be brave enough.
You won’t come away from the cinema thinking you’ve witnessed the best movie of your life but certainly can be assured of enjoying a very welcome diversion. The director Damien Chazelle has done a partial Baz Luhrmann – everything looks and is choreographed superbly, but the balloon has been smartly tethered to the ground.
What I like most about this musical is that the leads seem to use their own voices in the songs, and that these aren’t amped up to max, making us feel they are sopranos in disguise or conjurers of studio-like sound in ordinary streetscapes. Their dancing also is accomplished and fun to watch.
There is only one moment which jars throughout the movie, that being a floating dance sequence which would have been done as effectively outdoors and at ground level.
I overheard a millennial describe La La Land as “old school but wonderful”. There is no doubt it serves as both – for this is a movie with solid star power from its leads, a believable romance with some yips at the start and musical sequences which don’t feel shoehorned into place by crane. The only exceptions might be the aforementioned observatory moment and the opening sequence on a choked LA freeway. That number serves as a good primer though, because it is a daily occurrence that should be made more magical for Angelenos and also gets the audience in the mood for what is to come.
I’m unsure if Ryan Gosling is a pianist or honed specific moves for the role but what he performs musically on screen is quite incredible. He might also singlehandedly resurrect the two-tone shoe industry if Donald Trump needs to attract people back into disused factories. Emma Stone is likewise entrancing as the hopeful actress enduring the sterility and fickleness of landing a performance on a dime during some very dispiriting auditions.
It’s ironic but the ending to this movie is probably the most grounded sequence of all; a simple run through of the romantic possibilities, and a nod between the main players acknowledging whilst this could have been nice it simply wasn’t meant to be. It gives an authentic aftertaste to what has been a bold flight of fancy.