When you wait for something for so long, it can often be a major anti-climax. That was my biggest fear going into Damien Chazelle’s new flick, La La Land.
I loved Whiplash (Chazelle’s last film). Like, really, really loved it. The equivalent of a musical orgasm in film form, the drumming spectacle is just a wonderfully shot feature full of heart-pounding sequences and two excellent, but contrasting, central performances from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. The young directors next project was always going to be something that interested me and when La La Land was announced, it soon topped my ‘most anticipated’ list.
However, I didn’t love the trailers. Nor do I assume a 90+ critic rating on IMDb means anything other than it’s given the journalistic world a major cinematic hard-on. So with everything in mind – Whiplash, the long wait, the hype – I was a mixture of excited and pessimistic.
Those feelings of doubt, those niggles at the back of my brain, well they quickly dispersed. It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon of a universally loved film and writing this review on the back of it breaking Golden Globes history (7 out of 7, guys and gals!) makes what I am going to say seem like the easy thing to do. But there’s no denying, I loved it. The opening sequence left me a little cold and a longing for a bruising teacher to scream “not my tempo!” Yet it didn’t take long for this colourful masterpiece to sink its flamboyant, Singin’ in the Rain-esque claws into my musical-loving soul.
It’s a glorious throwback to the 50s and 60s, as real life meets dream world through street-lit tap dancing and well choreographed musical numbers. This is what most cinema-goers will remember; Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (the films leads and star-crossed lovers) floating mid-air amongst the stars in one of a number of extravagant set-pieces, but there’s more to La La Land than its shiny, colourful good looks.
The songs, the lights and the Hollywood nostalgia’s all great and good, but at its core is two bloody good actors telling a story of love, loss and dreams – nothing new, but awfully authentic – amongst a heavily bedazzled backdrop. It had me worried for a while. Half way through I asked myself: ‘this is amazeballs, but it’s just a great spectacle – where’s the heart?’ Oh how I was wrong. Take centre stage Stone-Gosling, as their on-screen chemistry exploded in one heart-filled romantic-meal-gone-wrong sequence. This was not going to fall into the ‘style over substance’ bracket. Oh no. There was the films soul, bleeding into my lap. It had completely won me over.
Oh, and it’s oh-so-well made. The swooping, the gliding, the close-ups and the pull aways; like Whiplash it’s a masterpiece in craftsmanship as it mix-and-matched in style, like Birdman the one minute to a Taylor Swift music video the next. It’s already cleaned up at the Globes and I suspect it’ll have a few more nights like that over the next month or two, and who’d bet against it!?!
Damien’s done good. Bravo.