Reviews

Review: La La Land (12A, 2hrs 8mins)

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Winner of seven Golden Globes, nominated for eleven BAFTAs and has already more than quadrupled its budget in box-office takings. No, I’m not talking about Assassin’s Creed, this is La La Land; not bad for a film that was only released in the UK a few days ago.

From the director that brought us the critically-acclaimed Whiplash, La La Land is only Damien Chazelle’s third feature but he is delivering the goods once again on the back of his phenomenal jazz-drama, a film so tense that my nails are still struggling to grow back! The UK release date was over a month later than the USA and it arrives on our shores with its arms already overflowing with accolades and 5-star reviews plastered all over its poster. With all the hype it is leaving in its wake, will La La Land be as well received by the British cinema-going public?

Probably, as I’m paying for an Amazon pre-order of the Blu-ray and vinyl as I type!

When Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress working as a barista on the set of a film studio, meets Seb (Ryan Gosling), who dreams of owning his own jazz club, she is rudely brushed off when she tries to compliment his skills at the piano. Despite this, they discover a spark for each other and set off on a whirlwind romance whilst they chase their dreams, but they soon find that life isn’t going to give them an easy ride…

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The genius of this film is how it recalls a bygone era of film making without emulating it for the sake of nostalgia. It deceptively tricks you into thinking that this is just a musical of the Gene Kelly ilk, but the director uses the musical set-pieces to accentuate the story arc as well as setting the tone of the film. Don’t go into La La Land thinking this is just an old-fashioned musical with dance routines. The story is fresh and contemporary and has a depth to it that your out-and-out dramas would be jealous of. It is beautifully designed and shot, with the fantastical scenes being sumptuous and vibrant to the point where your eyeballs will explode with sheer delight, yet the director achieves a stark contrast with the grittier scenes of the film by toning this down with a muted colour pallet and a stillness of camera. It is expertly executed and is as much of a visual treat for the eyes as the songs sung by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are to the ears. Both the leads shine in this film, and for those who haven’t fallen in love with Emma Stone already should brace themselves for falling head-over-heels! She has a remarkable singing voice that is matched by her natural acting ability, a complete package that can split your sides with laughter one minute and rend your heart the next. Gosling is her equal all the way through and has perfect comedy timing. You don’t associate him with a gifted singing voice and a talent for tickling the ivories but he has both in abundance. I’m sure the rest of the cast do fine but it’s hard to notice when there are such magnificent performances from the main players. The score is tremendous and you will catch yourself whistling and humming it for days afterwards. Chezelle has worked so hard on getting the individual elements right and he has put it all together to create one of the most perfect films ever made…

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…well, almost, as I have a few minor quibbles that stop it from being my first 10/10 of 2017. The ensemble musical set-pieces at the beginning of the film are ear-bashingly terrible. There is no clarity between the instruments and the vocals and the result is a mush of shouty, smashy, crashy, bangy noises that gave me a headache; not the best way to start a film, especially with the abrupt, disorientating and nauseating camera movements that accompany them. The film is a bit too long and you may start to question whether the story is actually going anywhere in places. What I found surprising is that I also felt no emotional connection to the film whatsoever. I could see the sad bits were sad and the funny bits were funny, but I didn’t shed a tear and only tittered a few times. The ladies sitting next to me were so enthralled by the events on screen that their feelings were bursting at the seams and I became quite jealous of their film experience when compared to my own. Maybe the first few musical numbers put me in the wrong frame of mind or perhaps a tighter edit would have made me the blubbering wreck that I normally am with this type of film.

Despite this, I thoroughly recommend that you see La La Land whilst it is still at cinemas as this needs to be seen on the big screen, although don’t rob yourself of the experience if you want to wait for its release on streaming services or disc…

….speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letterbox to sit patiently in front of…

09/10.

I saw La La Land at the wonderful Electric Cinema in Birmingham, which is the UK’s oldest working cinema. If you live in the West Midlands and love film I highly recommend you pay this beautiful cinema a visit. They also publish a free film magazine that’s available from the door. For more information on The Electric Cinema click here and for more information on their Electrolyte Magazine click here

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