Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Okay, this is the last you’ll hear of me being at London Film Festival (no promises), but I’ve certainly saved the best ’til last. Whilst I try not to make assumptions about a film prior to seeing it, it was very difficult not to be completely blown away by the artwork and first couple of trailers which surfaced for Damien Chazelle’s latest film ‘La La Land’. Chazelle’s directorial debut ‘Whiplash’ made waves with the festival crowd when it was shown at London Film Festival in 2014; a pulsating, raw, visceral, and incredibly well-executed thriller which made jazz drumming seem like the most terrifying thing on the planet. With the success of ‘Whiplash’, and the early signs hinting that Chazelle was going to strike gold twice, ‘La La Land’ pretty much already had its place penciled in on my top 10 movies of 2016 list.
After watching, not only has ‘La La Land’ found its place in my favourite films of 2016, it went straight in at number one, and is already knocking on the door of my all time favourite films list. If the previews got you excited for this film, then I can promise you, seeing the film in all its glory will knock your socks off. ‘La La Land’ is one of those rare, and exceptional movies, which hooks you right from the start; its sweeping opening song and dance number leaping and high-kicking its way through a congested Los Angeles highway, and straight into your heart.
What this film manages to pull off so well is achieving a modern look, with a classic feel. Everything about it feels timeless, the sort of film that you could take the plot from, put it in any era and it would still be a dazzling masterpiece. It feels like a film out of time, and whilst it is very much Chazelle’s love letter to old Hollywood, it still manages to be fresh, modern, endlessly innovative and effortlessly charming. It’s a film which will woo you, take you out to dinner, and then sweep you off your feet, as you fall increasingly more in love with it as every minute passes.
Whilst it is undoubtedly visually compelling and aurally intoxicating, it is anything but style over substance here. A lot of the substance comes from how exquisitely Chazelle is able to tell the story through the stand-out lead performances. It’s telling perhaps that there aren’t many characters which have notable speaking parts aside from the two leads, so really it all falls on Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Fortunately, they have a natural chemistry which is positively magnetic, and they’re one of the most perfect on-screen couples I’ve seen in a very long time. Individually they thrive as well; Stone delivers one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the entire year in her big solo number, and Gosling naturally exudes the charming, timeless, leading-man quality which makes him perfect for this role.
Chazelle has all the flair of a seasoned director, and it is incredible to think that this is only his second film. He makes his actors work hard, focusing closely on their faces and emotions, and brings vibrancy and life to the bigger, sweeping song and dance numbers. There’s a musicality to his direction, reminiscent of an orchestral conductor; effortlessly bringing together different elements and turning them into something truly beautiful with incredible ease.
I can really do nothing but gush about this film completely; ‘La La Land’ encompasses all the things I love about movies. It is a tribute to Hollywood, to romance, to stories which have the power to change you, to those emotions which stick around for days, weeks even (I’m still feeling incredibly moved by this film and it shows no signs of letting up). The closest feeling I can compare to the feeling I have towards this film is the feeling of being in love. It might sound strange, but I completely fell head over heels for this film, I want to do nothing but talk about it, and I get butterflies every time I think about it. ‘La La Land’ truly is a film for you to fall in love with, and I think it’ll be a very long and happy relationship. Oh, and yes, this is another 10 out of 10 – the festival which shall not be named really was a goldmine for perfect films, and none more so than ‘La La Land’.