Just opened in UK cinemas this past weekend, screen musical La La Land has already been tipped for a stage adaptation destined for Broadway and the West End. Mate Jonathan Baz reviews the film…
Opening in the UK with a haul of Golden Globes, La La Land deserves every one of its awards and possibly one or two more too. Damian Chazelle‘s movie, all about hopes and dreams in Los Angeles is a delightful look back to the days when movies literally brought the word “fantasy” into “fantastic”. It has an extravagance of song and dance in movie musicals that hasn’t been seen since the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but which with Chazelle’s script, is brought bang up to date.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play Mia and Sebastian. She’s a frustrated actress working as a barista on the Warner Studios backlot, while he is a jazz pianist reduced to playing cheesy Xmas background tunes as the only way of earning a living. The two meet, fall in love and through the most romantic yet credible of circumstances, inspire each other to go on and achieve their dreams. If the ending isn’t exactly the happiest, the film’s journey is nothing less than two hours of sheer, delightful cinematic whimsy.
The opening number sets the tone – even before the titles have rolled we have seen a line of Los Angeles traffic, stuck in a jam (remember this is LA, where traffic never moves) where the drivers leap from their cars to sing and dance the most ingeniously choreographed Another Day Of Sun. This is a movie where the mundanity of a traffic jam becomes a thing of dancing beauty – and what a refreshing joy it is to see a musical that’s prepared to see its characters fantastically burst from speech into song and dance and to erupt into numbers that are new and fresh, a world apart from the all too common juke-box regurgitations of a famous bands’ or artist’s greatest hits.
Justin Gurvitz scores the picture, with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The duo’s reputation precedes them with their 5* Dogfight a few years ago and yet again they pitch their lyrics spot-on, adding just the right amount of saccharine-infused schmaltz to bittersweet scenarios. The movie’s written wit is as sharp as it is sensitive, while Gurvitz’s tunes prove to be perpetually hummable – City Of Stars and Mia & Sebastian’s Theme proving to be gems.
Gosling and Stone’s footwork is spectacular. Sure, Stone has a Broadway track record but who knew Gosling could either dance or play piano? Mandy Moore’s choreography deserving its own award alongside Linus Sandgren’s breathtaking cinematography with its wondrous, never-ending tracking shots.
La La Land represents new musical writing that all composers and librettists should be aspiring too. Its numbers are a delirious cocktail of balladry, ballroom and brash braggadocio, all framed around a story that’s nothing more than an exploration of the highs and lows of the human condition. An unashamed delight that has to be enjoyed on the big screen. Go!
Now screening at all major cinema chains