Genre: Musical, Romance Director: Damien Chazelle Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Watching musicals have been a pleasant experience for me since getting to watch the likes of Chicago, Les Miserables and others when I was young. But with my focus on other films as I’ve gotten older, musicals aren’t really something that I’ve been able to watch for ages. So when La La Land – a musical romance film that by all accounts got a great deal of critical acclaim – was released it had my attention. Though it’s taken me a while, I’ve finally gotten to watch it and..
I really liked it; it’s a fun and engaging story that balances out excellent musical numbers with compelling characters that kept me watching and smiling. This doesn’t mean that it’s perfect of course, and I’ll get to that later. Still, La La Land does get my recommendation for how delightful it is to watch.
Taking place in the land of hopes and dreams; Los Angeles, La La Land follows the story of aspiring jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) as they fall in love and inspire each other to follow their dreams for the future. Along the way, they encounter complications that the real world inevitably brings, threatening to separate the two as they’re drawn in different directions.
The story, as I’ve said is very engaging; I found myself routing for these characters to succeed a more than in films that I’ve seen recently. Seb carries himself as a traditional jazz player, trying to preserve a musical style that he feels has been suffering in recent years by opening his own club. Mia meanwhile hopes to be able to star in her own stories rather than trying and failing audition after audition.
Both of these characters are pretty interesting to follow especially when pushing each other to do the things that they want to do. While I feel that Mia’s story could have been a bit stronger in comparison to Seb’s it isn’t as major of an issue, so it is still compelling.
The imagery for the film is excellent; from the daytime film shots taking place near studios and on streets, to night-time shots that complement the film’s use of colours. The use of colour here is something in particular that I felt was done well, doing a good job of highlighting main characters and important areas, giving the film a sense of vibrancy and energy that I just haven’t seen in a while.
Finally, there’s the music. Being a musical film, the show numbers have to be a particular draw in order to be successful. For the most part they are. Each of the songs was fun to listen to and watch perform. If I had to pick a favourite it would definitely be the opening song; (Another Day of Sun) taking place on a busy freeway using hundreds of singers and dancers. It felt like a classic musical number, introducing the world and setting the tone for the story.
Other numbers did well to, utilising excellent visuals as I mentioned before. Being a lover of jazz myself, I adored the jazz used in La La Land; it’s been ages since I listened to that blend of music but this film has encouraged me to seek it out once again.
I said that this film wasn’t perfect however. Though I dislike having to criticise it, I do have to say that some of the songs – while good – weren’t particularly memorable. When I think about musicals, I remember particular songs; Do You Hear the People Sing, Angel of Music, Cell Block Tango. While I said I liked the opening song (Another Day of Sun) I struggle to remember a song that was on the same level as those that I mentioned.
This isn’t to say that they’re bad – far from it – and maybe it’s unfair to compare a new musical film to older more famous musicals, but I don’t’ know if I’ll remember and like them in quite the same way.
Overall however, I found a lot to like in La La Land; it’s feeling like a classic musical, the imagery, casting and songs, were all compelling enough for me to keep my interest until the very end. If you like musicals and are nostalgic for those moments again, I do recommend La La Land. I just wish more people I know could watch and like it in the same way, because La La Land is a good film regardless.