Review: La La Land – unpolished perfection?

Review: La La Land – unpolished perfection?

Those captivated by the romance that ensued between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s roles in Crazy Stupid Love, will leave their seats fully satisfied by this all-singing, all-dancing journey of Seb and Mia, that marks the struggle to ‘make it’ in modern day Hollywood.

Reminiscent of the 1930s ‘golden age’ of Hollywood, the opening ‘traffic jam’ dance sequence on a highway draws us in to the thrill of this modern musical, whilst reflecting on the struggle to access this city of stars. Mia has a pipe dream to be an actress amongst the talent she serves working at the coffee shop on the Warner Brothers Studio set, a dream which appears unattainable after countless unfruitful auditions. The sheer injustice of her failure is showcased by two notably exquisite audition performances.

‘The sheer injustice of her failure is showcased by two notably exquisite audition performances.’

Having lost her car (a comically ubiquitous Toyota Prius) after a party, she is (properly) introduced to Seb. Seb dreams of owning his own jazz club, reinvigorating, but not reinventing a jazz that is ‘dying’ – although the latter is achieved on tour with his old cocksure friend Keith (John Legend). Mia meanwhile, stays at home to write herself into her dream one-woman play.

The vibrant, David Hockney-style backdrop to this romance is a stark contrast to the black and white archetype it takes its cues from. The bright block primary colours instead celebrate American optimism, whilst also highlighting the central conflict of making new the old style. The director calls upon us to question whether the change we strive for trumps what we leave behind, a stance that will perhaps be dictated by the success of the film itself: a modern take on a classic genre.

‘The bright block primary colours instead celebrate American optimism, whilst also highlighting the central conflict of making new the old style’

Although the work put into the singing and dancing by Gosling and Stone is both commendable and convincing, the performances struggle to live up to the standard as set out by the professionals in the opening sequence and elsewhere; they do not merit Oscars based on Gosling and Stone’s theatrical efforts alone. But perhaps perfection isn’t the point. Director Damien Chazelle said he wished, “to make a movie that would embrace the magic of musicals but root it in the rhythms and texture of real life,” and this he certainly does in a fashion that manages to be raw, yet varyingly polished.

This film is both witty and charming. It will draw you in, chew you up and spit you out emotionally, but at the same time leave you expecting a little more from Gosling and Stone. For this reason I would consider both actors underserving of Oscars in these roles, but it’s a charming film nonetheless. 

You can see the film at the Hyde Park Picture House now.

Aimee Churchouse

(Image courtesy of All Star/Lionsgate)

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