At first glance, La La Land seems like it fits into the mould of the classic movie musical; it’s full of catchy tunes, boy meets girl, and the lovers even have their own musical motif. Then things get a little bumpy, and we take one long ride on the emotional rollercoaster of love. It’s not what I was expecting, and that’s one of the reasons I can’t stop thinking about it.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are Sebastian and Mia, the unlikely couple who fall in hate, and predictably move swiftly on to love – through a suitably impressive dance number of course. He’s a jazz pianist trying to get a gig, she’s an actress always chasing the next audition. Both ambitious, passionate about their art, and talented, it’s a relationship you can’t help but get behind. Which makes everything hurt that little bit more when the rollercoaster gets going.
The opening ensemble number – a bright song and dance taking place in, over and across an LA traffic jam – sets the scene as the magic of the musicals meets the frustrations of city life. Throughout the film we glide through Los Angeles, swim among the stars, and crash land in a harsh reality.
The soundtrack is outstanding. The story is good, but it’s the soul of jazz that really shines through. Ryan Gosling, who learnt jazz piano for the role, does complete justice to the genre, and nails that special something that makes jazz speak to your heart.
When a long forgotten genre is given new life, it feels like the beginning of an exciting new chapter. The Artist reimagined the silent movie, and La La Land resuscitates the original film musical. We may have seen Les Miserables, Into The Woods and Mamma Mia make their way to the big screen, but they were all stage shows first – people already knew the songs, and the stories had been in the public space for a long time. Truly original film musicals haven’t come along very often in recent decades, and for the most part the genre seems like a distant memory – until La La Land woke it up.
This is a movie that will either make you want to get straight home to buff up on your jazz piano, get back into your tap shoes, or quite possibly all of the above.
Words by Katie Dancey