Part genius, part novice, La La Land manages to create a musical of modern day joy, without really being a musical at all.
La La Land reveals the story of Mia (Emma Stone), a young unsuccessful actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a passionate jazz musician, as they come together attempting to inspire each other onto the brilliant careers they’ve always wanted. The film is bright and sensitive, showing exactly how dreams should be chased.
Though, for a feature designed to bring back the good ol’ days of musicals in the cinema, there isn’t half a lot of talking. The film opens with the classic sounding ‘Another Day Of Sun’. Choreographed to a pinpoint, it is a bouncy, electric open which is almost immediately topped by swiftly flowing into ‘Someone In The Crowd’, a focus on Emma Stone’s character Mia, again, a big showy piece with vibrant colours and a joyous nature. Yet for these performance based musical numbers within the film, that is that. Gosling and Stone each get their chance to shine with solo songs, but the film suddenly ceases to include strangers or side characters joining in spontaneously with all future musical moments.
This is only exaggerated when the soundtrack is looked at in detail. 7 of the 15 tracks from the film are accompanying compositions by Justin Hurwitz. Though magical in their own right, they are not enough to fulfil the need La La Land has for huge numbers lifting the film. A further three of these songs are made of ‘City Of Stars’ and its two reprises. This is simply not enough for the film to rely on as a musical. La La Land is a piece that sets itself up one way, and follows off on a completely different path.
Despite all of this, La La Land is a very enjoyable watch. It is a sharp and snappy romantic “musical” which is a stark change from Les Miserables and its likes which have been projected onto the silver screen within the last 10 years. Gosling and Stone are beautiful together with a great rapport and their dancing and singing performances hold their own in an unexpected way; Especially the already famous dance number (pictured top).
Many articles have alluded to the importance of this scene. It was filmed during perfect sunset over two nights, with the whole six minutes flowing from one take. But does this actually matter? A film cannot be credited on the way it has done things as a substitute for what appears on screen. If two tests score the same, yet one has had greater effort churned into it, there is no bonus added. This is much more black and white that La La Land would have anyone believe. Yes it is a very exciting moment, but the way it is filmed does not and should not give the film extra credit. (But this is more of a comment on the state of the film critic scene rather than the film itself).
However, the ending is simply resplendent. A sequence that is worth the wait, with a vital message that ties the film over fittingly. The use of colour, throughout the film in fact, is essential and one of La La Land’s components that is perfectly imagined an visualised. An uplifting end in the most unexpected of ways. This is without considering the beautiful rendition of ‘Audition’ from Emma Stone. La La Land really does have some amazing moments, it just cannot carry this standard consistently throughout.
There are flashes of brilliance dotted around, but it seems always as if it is missing that one incredible moment. One single element of brilliance pushing it to the height of a classic that it so wants to be. Scene after scene. Line after line. The pinnacle is never reached.
Part genius, part novice, La La Land manages to create a musical of modern day joy, without really being a musical at all. Its more of a film with some songs. La La Land is not the film it needed to be, but it is a darn good one.