La La Land is a musical drama directed by Damien Chazelle, whose last film Whiplash (2014) already had several awards nominations. This latest masterpiece though already won 7 Golden Globes, which turned La La Land into one of the most expected releases in Europe in 2017.
La La Land tells the romantic story of a jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who falls in love with an ambitious and aspiring young actress Mia (Emma Stone) in LA. The film is the perfect example of a typical musical, which I will point out throughout the rest of this article. Normally, musicals are a matter of love it or hate it, nonetheless, you don’t have to be a fan of the genre to love this one. In my opinion, La La Land is the best commercial musical since Across the Universe (Julie Taymor, 2007) or Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001). The soundtrack is composed by Justin Hurwitz (Whiplash).
The film has a realistic plot, but fantastic visuals. Typical for the genre is that song sequences are less realistic and resemble dreams or fantasy. In real life nobody would be dancing on clouds, right? The film is visually very bright and colourful. A green, yellow, blue and red dress in a pink sky background in one frame is not even extraordinary in this film. This adds up to the general mood and feel-good experience of the audience.
La La Land follows the typical three-act structure with a setup, confrontation and resolution. The couple’s biggest enemy are their own ambitions. Sebastian wants his own jazz bar, Mia wants to become a famous Hollywood actress. But when one of them builds out his or her career their relationship goes wrong. Will they settle for love or will they eventually choose for their professional ambitions?
What I noticed straight away is the remarkable composition of the cast. The main actors are Hollywood’s finest, namely Gosling and Stone, and then there’s J.K. Simmons, who also performed a very significant role in Chazelle’s Whiplash. All the other actors are lesser known faces to the mainstream audience, but they most definitely are professional singers and dancers, what counters the mediocre singing performance of the two main actors. It’s even almost awkwardly funny to hear Ryan Gosling sing. By the way, some of you will also recognise the American singer and musician John Legend as Sebastian’s bandmate Keith. Gosling and Stone look like a perfect match, resembling the 30’s icons Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their dancing.
After 7 Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Song and Best Original Score) film critics expect La La Land to be among the big names at the Oscars this year. Fingers crossed!
La La Land is in theatres across Belgium on January 25th.
NB: By the time this article is online, they announced the Oscar nominees. La La Land is nominated for 14 Awards. La La Land therefore holds the same record as Titanic (James Cameron) in 1998.