La La Land is director Damien Chazelle’s tribute to Hollywood-musical films of old, featuring outstanding performances and brilliant direction.
Struggling Jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and fellow wannabe actress Mia (Emma Stone) fall in love after a chance meeting, as they both desperately try to make it in the entertainment industry, testing their relationship.
The basic premise of the film revolves around two entertainers chasing the Hollywood dream, trying to make it big in their chosen fields. This theme has been covered in cinema a countless number of times, however it’s never felt as refreshing as it did in La La Land. Director Damien Chazelle is to thank for that, with his direction being the standout element of the entire film. He blends the film’s narrative with its numerous musical scores perfectly, while using some filming techniques that felt truely unique. He’s the type of director whose passion for filmmaking and music (in particular), is so obviously brought out on screen, helping the film hit the mark in almost all aspects. One small fault simply comes down to the film tending to run a bit longer than it probably should have, feeling like it dragged on in some parts. It seemed as though not much may have been left on the cutting room floor in the film’s edit, where it probably could have.
Getting past those few moments however, the film rewards its audience with classic Hollywood charm and humour, excellent performances, great musical numbers and enthralling visuals. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are perfectly cast as the film’s two leads. They each have a commanding presence when alone on the screen, along with fantastic chemistry when they’re together. Their musical abilities including Gosling’s piano playing and Stone’s singing, help to give the film that added layer of authenticity. They’re also genuinely funny when the script calls for it, and also look like they’re having fun playing these characters, which always helps to sell the enjoyment factor to the film’s audience.
The film is full of various original musical numbers, which may or may not appeal to some viewers, however fans of musicals will be delighted. Each piece ties in with the what’s happening in the film’s narrative, and the choreography and photography of each song is of high quality; you can’t help but be sucked into each song, even if you’re generally not into musicals. The music’s credit belongs to Justin Hurwitz, who seems to have gotten exactly what the director was after for this film.
La La Land is the type of film that will have you walking out with a smile. It’s simplistic themes are overshadowed by its use of entertaining musical set pieces and superb direction by Damien Chazelle. Gosling and Stone fans will be pleased with their performances, as the two stars lead the way in what is an expertly crafted film, and one of the year’s best.
According to composer Justin Hurwitz, all the piano performance featured in the film was first recorded by pianist Randy Kerber during pre-production. Ryan Gosling then spent two hours a day, six days a week in piano lessons learning the music by heart. By the time filming had begun, Gosling was able to play all the piano sequences seen in the film without the use of a hand double or CGI.