In this modern era of blockbusters and franchises, a throwback to classic Hollywood is exactly what the world needs; a reminder of simpler yet grander times. In a more cynical world, nostalgia is the greatest weapon in creating a modern, original musical and Damian Chazelle is the perfect director to do so, taking the rhythmic energy of Whiplash and putting it to the age old story of dreamers caught in La La Land.
From the opening number, the aesthetics and emotions of 50s musicals is captured perfectly in a beautiful one shot of the traffic entering LA centre, immediately twisting the mundane of modern day to the idealised beauty of old Hollywood; a recurring motif that creates beauty in the everyday and wonder in a story we’ve heard so many times before. Taking two Hollywood clichés, the struggling actress and the tortured musician, Chazelle gives us a love story that defies reality and holds the audience with its style and grace; every frame a technicolour marvel. Such a film demands a lot yet Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone slip breathlessly into their roles, each a performer of such charm that they seduce the audience as much as each other. Split into four parts, the film explores each stage of their relationship as they traverse life in LA and attempt to make their dreams come true. Despite this potentially tired concept, Chazelle brings a fresh take on simply a plot level in showing love as a journey and not a destination. It’s never as simple as happily ever after.
A mix of energetic jazz and bombastic show tunes, each musical number becomes instantly iconic and drives the emotional energy of the film: heightening each encounter with stylised dance sequences that isolate our protagonists from the world around them. These sequences always remain grounded enough to still feel real and impactful while managing to romanticise the perils and sacrifices they face in reaching their dreams. However, Chazelle’s greatest weapon here is the deep nostalgia for classic Hollywood: movies like Singin’ in the Rain and Rebel without a Cause. The film is embedded with countless references and call-backs, both obvious and subtle, to assist in recapturing the spirit of the 50s.
La La Land is cinematic gold, fully deserving all the praise and awards coming its way. Much like the films it harkens back to, I am sure this masterpiece will become an iconic moment in movie history.