Review: La La Land

If you were new to earth and looking for something to do, the first person you asked would probably tell you to go see La La Land.

The musical comedy-drama, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, has made an astounding impact on both the snootiest of critics, and much of the general public, and looks set claim Oscar victory this February.

On the surface it may seem curious that such impact could reverberate from a movie-musical, of all things. But analysing the success of similar films past should surely put any head scratching to rest.

People often go queasy at the mention of the genre, but the musical film has always been an enjoyable indulgence for most. La La Land, however, is less broad than a classic like Singin In The Rain, and less painful than watching a musical theatre piece like Les Miserables attempt to make the transition from stage to screen. And it’s that authenticity, as well its winks to classic cinema, that have made it a hit with critics too.

There are moments of carefree song and dance, but they’re met with consequences in later parts of the film.

You’ll happily whistle along to “City of Stars” sung by Ryan Gosling on your first viewing. But days later, you’ll likely find whistling it conjures up the memory of Emma Stone, eyes beginning to water, staring into Gosling’s soul across the dinner table.

The intense contrast between the joyous musical numbers, and heavy emotional interactions will leave you consistently on the edge, never quite sure if they’re about to break into song or break into tears.

It’s seductive and misleading; at times visually spectacular; at others, comfortingly mundane. But the puzzle combines to leave an impression that’s rather haunting.

It becomes clear that these characters have to think in musical numbers to cope with, well, life.

La La Land is full of moments both too close to home, and as far away from it as you can get.

A piece that bubbles up the problems we as humans have to face, only to follow them with a song that allows us to push them back down.

An always moving dance that makes La La Land a captivating film.

Listen to Episode 1 of Cinema Crowd, a pop-up podcast in the lead-up to the Oscars.

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