Monday, 19 December 2016
FILM REVIEW: LA LA LAND
If Damien Chazelle's previous film, the Oscar-nominated Whiplash, was a depiction of the pursuit of artistic excellence taken to the extreme, then his latest (just his third feature) is a sunshine-and-lollipops look at artists pursuing their dreams: a Hollywood fairy tale refracted through a prism of song and dance, hyper-colours and a seemingly endless supply of sunny days.
Opening in winter (the film's story unfolds over 12 months), Chazelle sets the tone with a one-take opening number set on an L.A. bridge during a traffic jam. That's where our protagonists -- aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone), and jazz pianist, Seb (Ryan Gosling) -- briefly meet cute.
That meeting, however, isn't friendly but the pair will meet two more times, and the third time's the charm with romance ensuing. La La Land is thus a typical boy-meets-girl story, albeit one interspersed with song, as both struggle artistically -- Mia suffers rejection after rejection at various auditions, while Seb's dream of owning his own club means having to sell-out his jazz purist ideals -- before achieving success.
Success, of course, breeds success but it also kills romance, with their sunshine-y relationship souring as a result.
That said, La La Land isn't particularly deep or emotionally resonant. What it does have is charm: Stone and Gosling's chemistry (it's their third on-screen pairing) radiates off the screen. The perfectly-matched pair sell the romance even if Chazelle can't quite achieve the bittersweet ending that he's going for.