La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016) follows the efforts of Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling) to fulfil their dreams. She is an aspiring actress looking for her first break while he is a pianist whose sole ambition is to save jazz, an art form he believes is in decline. When their paths cross they do anything they can to keep each other believing and striving towards achieving their goals. La La Land is a modern musical tribute to the classical Hollywood musicals about hope and never giving up on your dreams.
Emma Stone delivers a wonderful performance as Mia. In true personal fashion, she builds up a character that is both slightly awkward, geeky, confident and determined all at once. Ryan Gosling portrays the caring and supportive boyfriend very convincingly. In preparation for the part, he went through an arduous pre-production regime and learned to play the piano from scratch so that he could do all his own scenes. Put them both together and their talent and chemistry was bound to make the film a success. They might not be perfect dancers or singers but that just adds to the charm of their characters who are struggling artists.
Damien Chazelle, writer and director, will become a household name in years to come. This is only his second major Hollywood production and yet he shows great skill and dexterity. La La Land earned him the Best Director Academy Award, making him the youngest director to ever win. Opting for long one-sequence musical scenes could not have been an easy decision to make or task to carry out, yet the opening scene, set in a traffic jam, sets the right mood for the rest of the film to develop. The cinematography is also praiseworthy. The use of rapidly swirling camera movements matches the emotional turmoil of the characters, whereas the use of pastel and block colours makes the whole film light up like a beacon of hope.
That the music is fantastic goes without saying. A blend of instrumental pieces and songs with lyrics showcase some elegant and emotive dreamlike ballroom dancing and also carry along the story. The soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the story reflecting how the characters’ relationship and emotions evolve as they struggle to acomplish their dreams. “City of stars” has already won awards for best original song but one of its rivals at the Academy Awards will actually be “The Audition (The fools who dream)”, a beautiful song about doing whatever it takes and not giving up.
The themes of the film will resonate with many, especially the younger generation. La La Land is about the struggle of young people in a world where it is increasingly difficult to get into employment, whether you are an artist or not. However, it goes about it in a completely novel way. It is not all drama. The key is to persevere and not give up. La La Land is also a tale of compassion and support. It portrays the importance of surrounding oneself with people who encourage one to become the best version of oneself.
Over the awards season, La La Land has won numerous awards. Emma Stone won the Best Leading Actress at all ceremonies, Damien Chazelle also won all the directing awards this season. The film won all the cinematography awards, as well as original soundtrack and original song. Praise and prizes rained down on La La Land – and rightly so. The film is incredibly original and charming and technically it is perfect. It might not have won the Best Picture award at the Oscars but, in my eyes, it was the best film of last year.