Sometimes it takes something spectacular, a real whack in the gut, to revive an ailing blog. So it was with La La Land, the stunning film that has all of my artsy friends chattering this month.
It didn’t take much to sell me on this film: Emma Stone is pure, unadulterated girl crush, Ryan Gosling is my slightly less pure man crush, I bloody loved Whiplash from director Damian Chazelle and it was billed as a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age of big-budget musical-movies, aka my drug of choice.
What I did expect, and loved: big-scale musical numbers, gorgeous colour and choreography, Fred-and-Ginger style hoofing, Stone’s cutesy singing voice and a hefty dollop of quirkiness. What I didn’t expect, and was obliterated by: the wistful sadness of lost love, the heart-grazing realness of the lovers’ quarrel, the insight into a performer’s life, a passionate case for keeping jazz alive, Gosling’s Rat-Pack-soulful singing voice. The travel siren call to glorious LA. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so funny and human and heartbreaking. I can’t choose one favourite scene, but Gosling’s to-and-fro with restaurant manager JK Simmons is up there, as is his wander on the pier, Stone’s run to the cinema, Gosling’s adorably anguished jazz 101 breakdown (‘It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!’), and the daring flashback sequence at the end.
Even the bits I didn’t love (the trilling housemates who we never saw again, the whimsical sky-dance from Griffith Observatory) were pretty magical. Many frames were haunting, retro visual sighs, pretty enough to hang on my wall.
If you love musicals, see it — I don’t think, like some people I know, that the songs and soundtrack will endure, but they serve the plot and atmosphere of the film with a lightness of touch and and a sad beauty. If you don’t love musicals, still see it — LA never looked so good, the script is funny as f**k, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be imitating Mia’s colour-blocked wardrobe this spring/summer. I’m glad cinemas still exist for creative, big-dreaming tours de force like this one.