Damien Chazelle's Whiplash was one of my favourite films of 2015. So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I went in to see Chazelle's latest film, La La Land.
A paean not only to Los Angeles, but to film, to music, to love, La La Land follows jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) as they meet and fall in love against the backdrop of the City of Angels.
Where do I start? Chazelle's direction is astonishing and technically accomplished right from the get-go, where a traffic jam on the LA freeway bursts into a huge song-and-dance number. There's a beautiful sequence set in the Griffith Observatory where Sebastian and Mia's relationship intensifies, but Chazelle's directorial flair can also be seen in the smaller, more intimate, scenes where the relationship drama plays out.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play off each other nicely; this is their third collaboration on screen after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad and they really sell the relationship. Gosling plays Sebastian's earnestness about the purity of jazz with passion and commitment, whilst Stone's Mia is no blushing ingenue- she's a few years into her career, still schlepping to auditions, but not yet disillusioned enough to stop her dreaming. There's able support from Rosemarie DeWitt as Sebastian's sister Laura who makes the most of her single scene, whilst there's also a cameo for Whiplash's J.K. Simmons as Sebastian's boss.
Justin Hurwitz's score is beautiful and the songs range from the upbeat- the opening 'Another Day Of Sun' and the party number 'Someone In The Crowd'- to the melancholic- the beautiful 'City Of Stars' and Mia's 'Audition (The Fools Who Dream). As with all musicals, you do have to accept the inherent ridiculousness of people suddenly bursting out in song, but, if you can't do that, then you really don't have much business seeing a musical to start with.
It's a beautiful film, visually sumptuous, cracking soundtrack, a wryly funny script (also written by Chazelle) with two wonderful lead performances and a nicely bittersweet edge to cut through the candyfloss. I know we're only just getting started with the year, but already I can see this being one of my films of 2017.
Rating: 5 out of 5
La La Land is on general release from 12th January 2017.