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Review: La La Land

New year, old problems. As with The Revenant last year, I was cursed to wait for La La Land while the Yanks and film festival goers could watch it as much as they pleased. Having seen its reviews, I wondered whether critics had forgotten they were allowed to give a film fewer than five stars or whether it really was as good as they suggested!

La La Land is the second film from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle, and stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The film is about Seb, a jazz pianist, and Mia, an actress, both trying to find their way in contemporary Hollywood. It also happens to be a musical.

The film is amazing. From the dazzling opening musical number (which I realised half way through was done all in one take, as were a number of other complex shots) I knew I was in for a treat. Chazelle is a mastermind in his cinematography, with both impressive single-take scenes and other more subtle shots that implied much about the characters.

The music is stellar, effortlessly capturing the style that the film is pursuing while never feeling clichéd. Emma Stone has a surprisingly beautiful voice, and Gosling’s piano playing is incredible, especially considering he only learnt it for the film.

Speaking of the leads, although Stone is brilliant Gosling manages to be on another level. His performance showcases all of his best talents, going from humorous to romantic to dramatic during the course of the film with ease. If this role was not written for him then I don’t know how it manages to suit him so perfectly. Gosling has an innocent charm about him in the film that meant whenever he smiled I always found myself smiling back at him. It always seemed to me that he was legitimately happy. Having seen in him in The Nice Guys and Drive (the more I mention that film the more people I hope take the time to watch it) as well as this, Gosling is now one of my favourite actors working today.

The screenplay is also fantastic, and whilst this film could feel unoriginal, being a romantic drama about two people trying to find their way in the world, it regularly breaks from convention. Furthermore, Chazelle’s directing ensures that this is an experience unlike any other.

While I would hate to spoil anything in my reviews, I must briefly mention the ending. I could not use any word to describe it other than perfect, as it leaves one with a message that cannot be forgotten. It had food critic Harry King (who joined me on my adventures) close to tears, and I wasn’t far off joining him.

La La Land teaches us that life is not perfect, no matter how many films may tell you otherwise. At the same time it also teaches us that life is what we make of it: therefore offering an often beautiful and bittersweet message that everyone must see.

La La Land is a film for everyone: for those who love romance, humour, drama and above all for those who love cinema. Do not ignore the number of high ratings this film is receiving, it is a must-see for everyone.

★★★★★