LFF Review: La La Land

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Mesmerising

This tribute to classic Hollywood is a cinematic masterpiece. La La Land will leave you feeling on top of the world- a reminder of the power of musical cinema.

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Damien Chazelle’s ‘love letter’ to Los Angeles is a simply phenomenal piece of cinema. An intoxicating, mesmerising, and utterly stunning portrayal of love, hopes and dreams.

The modern day musical follows aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) who works in a coffee shop, fitting in auditions whenever she can and forever aspiring for that big break. Mia then meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling musician who dreams of opening his own jazz club. The two eventually discover a connection which is fuelled by their love of performance and their respective dreams of making it big in the City of Angels.

Opened by an explosive music and dance sequence, this could be a scene from an 80’s dance flick, with popping colours and spellbinding dance moves. Immediately a whole host of emotions come flooding in with childhood memories of singing and dancing along to musicals, when we were all first captivated by the glitz and glam of Hollywood.

Throughout the film, colour and glam is bursting at the seams, and we are carried through the narrative with showtunes and jazz dancing. It’s an homage to classic Hollywood, and at no point shies away from the fairy tale romance which grabs our attention so quickly. However, La La Land takes it one step further and does not reduce itself to merely a cliché or predictable story. As if the intoxicating romance between Mia and Sebastian isn’t enough to have us absolutely enthralled for the duration of the film, the narrative is so carefully crafted that a film as optimistic as this one can have twists and turns which we might not expect.

The performances of Gosling and Stone individually are fantastic, but together the pair are just electric. The two actors possess a chemistry unlike many others, portraying a love so touching, so convincing, that it’s just hypnotic. The film features music from not just the leads themselves, but also John Legend, playing in the band The Messengers with Sebastian, who have an innovative jazz sound. J.K Simmons, who won an Oscar for his performance in Chazelle’s last film Whiplash, also makes an entertaining appearance. La La Land’s mix of slow love songs and huge ballads remind us of how fantastic the slowly disappearing musical genre is. Chazelle forces us to remember the power of the genre and how susceptible we are to its effects; romance and happiness just wash over us.

With some hilarious comedic moments, La La Land will have you laughing and smiling for quite literally the entire runtime. In a time in cinema where there are remakes of just about everything, La La Land is all the more special for being truly original. In all its flawlessness, it takes things a step further than its predecessors and challenges the fairy tale story expectations, as Mia and Sebastian struggle to make things work while trying to achieve their dreams.

It’s so refreshing to be able to watch a film where you’re given permission to laugh, cry, smile and just be overwhelmed by such an optimistic and colourful story in a time when the world feels so bleak. La La Land reminds us that musicals can make you feel on top of the world and that the nostalgia of childhood fairy tales doesn’t ever have to leave us. You will leave this film feeling on cloud nine and ready to take on your own dreams.

La La Land (2016) directed by Damien Chazelle, is being shown as part of the 2016 BFI London Film Festival. Further information about the festival including screening times and ticket information can be found here.

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Former Film Editor for The Edge, second year history student, Irish dancer and film enthusiast. My biggest inspiration is by Bear Grylls. Yes Bear Grylls. Originally from West London.

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