I've ever been comfortable with musicals. Spontaneous song bursting forth in a film has always made me uneasy. It will come as no surprise to read then that the opening sequence of La La Land made me little uneasy.
The films' hype and increasing award recognition had meant that expectations were high and this was supported by the sell out screenings at our local cinema. The opening moments though were everything I feared. Characters bursting forth from cars on a jammed freeway declaring their love for LA and their hopes and dreams of stardom within the city were toe tapping but equally irritating for e. I joked on social media that if that happened around me I would lock my car doors! However, as time went on La La Land charmed its way up from my tapping toes into the cockles of my heart.
With Whiplash, director Damian Chazelle showed the rocky relationship between student and pupil embroiled in brutal jazz warfare. This time, his sophomore examination of relationship is through the lens of two lovers serenading and chasséing across LA enamouring us as they go.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress who has several run-ins with jazz adoring musician Seb ( Ryan Gosling). The pair hold each other at distance initially before falling head over (tap shoe) heels for each other. While encouraging each other to reach for their dreams, they soon realise that perhaps sacrifices may have to be made to get what they want.
Stone and Gosling have staggering on-screen chemistry. We root for them, roll our eyes in frustration at them and smile with them at every step of the way. This is excellently highlighted during the cinema scene (pictured above). As they sit in the Rialto watching Rebel Without A Cause, the camera drops to their hands. This is the first 'date', the feeling out process is in full swing and their fingers edge nervously towards each other to embrace. It's a lovely, subtle relatable, romantic moment that every viewer can relate to and they do so well to carry it off with true feeling. Equally, when the strain in the relationship begins to show later in the film, their long lingering gazes and authenticity of arguments and awkwardness are as relatable as their joyous off the cuff banter with each other.
The musical numbers are well performed and bring a refreshing change to the normal relationship movie. However, if these 'gimmicks' had not been used I still think this would be a noteworthy film. These characters are interesting enough and the story compelling enough to possibly not require other bells and whistles. That said, it is impossible not to be impressed with the musical pieces and their execution (I've been humming songs from the soundtrack all day).
La La Land is a film that encourages the dreamers to reach for the sky. It is also a film that gives equal emphasis to those that support the dreamers ideas. So often the dreamer is the focus and everyone else fades into the background. La La Land holds both in equal regard.
While I'm not a huge fan of the musical genre La La Land has certainly succeeded in charming me more than others.
So here's to the dreamers and to those who support them .