I just got back from seeing La La Land in the cinema for the third time. If I’m perfectly honest, I could go and see it again right now and love it just as much. The last time a film had an effect this profound on me was, ironically, another film by director Damien Chazelle, Whiplash. The first time I saw La La Land I sat in the cinema in utter awe for the entirety of the credits and spent the whole of the following day trying to somehow pin down its brilliance. Quite often, the films I champion don’t do as well as I think they should but this looks to be quite different; with a record breaking number of Golden Globes and a whopping 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land is doing better than I could’ve ever dreamed.
Success appears to come at a cost, with some (okay, still a minority, but the fact these comments exist astounds me) critics arguing that ‘Chazelle refuses to write strong female characters’, ‘the musical performances are mediocre’ and ‘the ending is a great disappointment’. None of these issues or criticisms existed when La La Land was first released, they didn’t even exist when La La Land broke the Golden Globe record. Yet as the film has been more and more successful people have started to pick it apart to such extremes that they’re starting to find really ridiculous deep rooted issues with the film. It quite fundamentally comes down to the fact that people don’t like success, they don’t want to accept the fact that this is a near perfect film and they can’t bring themselves to watch this piece of art and really lose themselves in its technical brilliance.
One of the things I truly loved about La La Land is the way it so beautifully tributes the Classical Hollywood period, yet simultaneously inverts these traditions with a modern spin. I lost count of the classic films honoured in some way or another in the stunning ‘Epilogue’ sequence. The film’s real beauty, however, comes from the incredible performances of its two leads – their performances enough alone, in my opinion, to warrant the hype surrounding the film. Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling so effortlessly capture what it’s like to be so desperate to make it in the creative industry – the first audition scene in which Stone somehow manages to act being an actress is one of the most emotive pieces of acting in years. Gosling on the other hand, delivers the most incredible stare since Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (if you know, you know) – if a look in one’s eye was enough to win an Oscar, he’d have it, hands down.
The chemistry of the lead couple is phenonmenal, infectious at times, and one of the main things I picked up on my third viewing of the film is the way in which they adopt each other’s mannerisms so subtly as the film develops. Towards the end of the film when the pair are discussing where they stand, Gosling makes reference to an earlier comment made by Stone during an argument. He playfully remarks, ‘you love jazz now!’, a subtle instance that filled me with both joy and heartache – this film is not Classical Hollywood in terms of smiles and rainbows, but it is very much Classical Hollywood in terms of the skill and craft of its leading actors.
Some people have criticised the musical numbers. They have been critical of the singing ability of Gosling and Stone, and the fact that the opening number, ‘Another Day of Sun’ isn’t belted out in a Broadway-esque style. I’m happy to admit that neither Gosling or Stone deliver pitch perfect vocals, but to say that they cannot sing would be completely false. Their imperfections are part of what makes the film so brilliant, ultimately, it’s about two people out of thousands trying to make it, they’re not perfect but they’re certainly rough diamonds doing everything in their power to use their talents to be successful. The same goes for the opening number, an explosion into song and dance on a jammed Los Angeles flyover. Had these performers belted out the number with note-perfect precision it would be obvious who should be the ones that make it in the free for all that is ‘La La Land’. The fact they are just as imperfect (but still very, very good) again shows that there are so many people trying and desperate to make it, all it will take is a lucky break for one of them.
If you have not yet seen La La Land, go right now. There are always going to be people who don’t quite understand the most critically acclaimed films and certainly bound to be people who decide they hate anything that has hype and praise surrounding it. However, the fact here is that La La Land is a very good film – it didn’t ask to be given 14 Oscar nominations and it certainly didn’t have its success handed to it on a plate! I hope you join me in applauding this beautiful piece of work, I know for a fact that I will be utterly delighted when it wins the numerous Academy Awards it deserves!