Along with westerns, musicals are arguably Hollywood’s greatest invention. But whereas the oater has continued to evolve and still occasionally throws up a classic, fans of musicals have largely subsisted on a diet of jukebox crowd-pleasers and proven Broadway hits. La La Land changes all that.
As an homage to the golden age of Hollywood musicals, Damien Chazelle’s stunning third feature more than holds its own against the classics from masters such as Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen. But it also offers a witty deconstruction of the form itself and a bittersweet meditation on how the real world will inevitably intrude on the magic of romantic and artistic dreams.
There are echoes of both A Star Is Born and Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York in the storyline. Emma Stone is a struggling actress working as a barista, Gosling a frustrated jazz pianist who is determined not to sell out; in true Hollywood fashion they take an instant dislike to each other, but eventually fall in love and encourage each other to pursue their respective artistic visions. However, things begin to sour when Gosling is reluctantly recruited into an appalling jazz-funk outfit led by John Legend, while Stone struggles to realise an ambitious one-woman theatre show.
However, don’t fret too much about the familiar storyline; instead marvel at the vibrant primary colours of cinematographer Linus Sandgren, the beautifully choreographed musical set-pieces – kudos, too, for Justin Hurwitz’s witty score – and the gorgeous production design. As singers, Gosling and Stone probably wouldn’t get far on The Voice but they don’t put a foot wrong in the dance sequences – the scenes in which they waltz together in the Hollywood hills or literally take flight at a planetarium will melt the heart of most show-tune cynics. Prepare to be dazzled.
In cinemas: December 26, 2016
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt
Directed by: Damien Chazelle