Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dazzle in a tale of modern day Los Angeles love, told as an homage to the golden age of film making and musicals.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a young, aspiring actress making do as a barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling musician with a great appreciation and talent for Jazz. Both trying to get their big break, these two characters struggle with rejection and self-expression in the highly competitive world of L.A and Hollywood. La La Land tells the story of these two characters as they cross each other’s paths and a romance begins to blossom.
The story is utterly charming and this is down to, in no small part, the fantastic acting on show from Stone and Gosling. Stone is a joy to watch on screen, bringing a youthful energy to a character who is a fantastic balance of delicate and resilient. Gosling is equally excellent as he breathes life into a character who is more arrogant and blunt but equally charismatic. But it’s when the two are on screen together that La La Land is at its best. The two actors create a dynamic and relationship that feels genuine and instantly relatable. Their emotional highs and lows together become more and more emotionally intense as their onscreen connection builds to its climax.
But La La Land’s story is also a product of its presentation and that too is exceptional. Each scene of the film flows together with clinical precision, transitions from one period of time to another are beautifully handled and as a result the audience are kept sucked in to the story for, nearly, the entire running time. The other aspect that makes La La Land’s presentation so fantastic is how well balanced the story is. Both main characters receive the same amount of development, and though their stories are very different, they are equally well told. This balance extends to the music as well, the film is full of excellent, catchy musical numbers, at no point do they overwhelm the story but at no point does the story overwhelm the music either. The songs stand on their own, in memorable and stunning sequences, but are also vital to the telling of the story. It’s another example of the balance of La La Land being masterful.
But above everything else La La Land is a film built of incredibly beautiful cinematography. Every scene is a painting and every painting is as different and vivid as the last. Vibrant colours dominate scenes and move with the scene as it progresses. Movement is also key to the gorgeous cinematography. Rather than cut from shot to shot the camera lingers, making entire sequences play out in stunning examples of single shot choreography, the camera floats from one composition to another with minimal cuts. All of this comes together to present the perfect homage to 50’s cinema; shots are composed perfectly, with beautiful, striking use of colours and an incredible sense of authentic scale. La La Land is not a cover version of an era past, it is the golden age captured in a lens and let loose on the screen once more.
La La Land is a perfect example of how to make a film that is both a homage to the past and a step in to the future. The film’s portrayal of a hopeful and yet realistic Los Angeles fills you with optimism for Hollywood going forward. The film has a few forgettable minutes here and there towards the beginning of the third act. But every other second of this film is charming, beautiful, genuine and stunningly constructed. If you have even a sliver of interest in the movie industry then La La Land is a must see.
La La Land scored a 9.8/10.
This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.