Damien Chazelle’s newest project, a modern musical titled La La Land, stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and debuted at the Venice Film Festival last year to an ecstatic audience. Since then, the film has earned seven Golden Globes and fourteen Oscar nominations and has been well received by critics and the general public alike, grossing £6 million in its first weekend at the UK box office.
The film portrays the romance between Mia (Stone), a barista who aspires to be a successful Hollywood actress, and Sebastian (Gosling), a brooding jazz purist and pianist with hopes of opening his own jazz club. The pair meet multiple times and engage in several musical numbers before beginning a relationship. Their classic romantic comedy storyline draws the audience in and makes you invest in the film. Gosling and Stone both prepared immensely for their roles, with Gosling learning piano, and both taking dance lessons to execute skilfully choreographed tap and waltz sequences.
The film has faced criticism regarding the casting of Gosling and Stone and many have argued that there were more appropriate choices for the two leads. While watching, I did take issue with the fact that their voices were not best-suited for a musical, nevertheless as exceptional leading actors the pair perfectly enshrined the romantic and idealistic personalities of their characters.
Though set in the modern day, the film is self-consciously nostalgic, as emphasised by Mia’s obsession with old movies and Hollywood stars, and Sebastian with the ‘good ol’ days’ of jazz. There are several musical numbers, the most memorable of which is ’City of Stars’, a recurring song that conflates Mia and Sebastian’s relationship issues with the problems that come with success and stardom in a city like Los Angeles.
There were moments where I found the movie dragged a little, but all in all, La La Land was a powerful love story, provoking a wistful feeling of ‘What if?’ through its heart-wrenching finale in which Chazelle presents alternative narratives, offering the audience the happy ending usually afforded to musicals before snatching it away.
Despite the few issues that can accompany even the best of films, La La Land is a must-watch, garnering the popular interest needed to ensure the recent resurgence of movie-musicals will only go on.