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Monday, 9 January 2017

Movie review: La La Land, dir Damien Chazelle (2016)

There's no definitive image that encapsulates the major themes of this movie so I just chose an image of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) looking into each other's eyes. The movie was a nice surprise, as I wasn't expecting much from a 2-hour rom-com where the main character is Hollywood itself. But Stone and - to a lesser extent - Gosling do bring out the best the script and the songs had to offer.

The movie charts the relationship of aspiring actress Mia and aspiring jazz pianist Sebastian as they navigate the vicissitudes of life in tinseltown. The bad casting meeting and the underwhelming band practice are put to the test against the love and support the two young people show for each other. Mia eventually finds her feet - partially, it turns out - by putting on a one-woman show and Sebastian does a stint on keyboards with a pop band whose sound he in fact hates.

Interspersed between the acting scenes are musical numbers and it's here that Gosling falls a bit flat. He can't sing, that's obvious, and the director gives him a lot less work to do. He can play the piano though, and the film's producers make sure he gets plenty of work to do on the ivories. Stone can sing, however, and she gets lots of work. The songs are uniformly good. The signature tune of the whole piece, City of Stars, appears at tonic moments to remind us that it is the lovers and dreamers who make the world turn. In fact, Mia includes words to this effect in one scene where she has been called to perform in front of the casting agents for a movie to be shot in Paris, which turns out to be the hinge on which her career swings.

The ending is endlessly poignant and touching, although you wonder what happened to some of their promises to one another. I can't recommend this film highly enough, though, especially to those who like to walk away from the cinema with a lump in their throats.

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