For those of you who’ve been living under a rock since the film’s first appearance at the Venice film festival, Damien Chazelle directs Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian and Mia, two California dreamers who begin to fall in love after a chance encounter on a busy highway. Seb aspires to open his own Jazz club (in order to save what he sees as a dying genre), and Mia, a wannabe actor, is desperate to escape her life of serving coffee to the inhabitants of the Warner Bros. backlot.
Yeah, I’ve never found myself attached to the glorification of the grand heritage La La Land is so clearly besotted with, but the two sequences paying homage to Rebel Without a Cause caught my attention. In relation to Gosling, I suppose I should put another of my long-held prejudices to rest. While his woozy eyes have understandably wowed many, to me his expression has always appeared vacant, almost detached. In Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, this worked wonders, and here, too, his hazy gaze speaks to something authentic: the far-reaching mind of a dreamer.
In contrast to the stark colours, the morality of the story - of Seb and Mia’s victories and sacrifices - is far from black and white. I’m pressed to label it ‘earnest to a fault’…Chazelle knows we’re too cynical to buy a total lovesick ode to Tinseltown right now, so peppers the sweet with spice. I could understand why the film makes certain moves towards the flip-side of fairy tales but found that the nostalgic undertone of the film as a whole reeked of insincerity.
An ear-worm of a soundtrack, astounding visuals, 'loveable' stars and a surprisingly textured narrative - it's no wonder why Hollywood is praising this film. It's everything the industry loves - itself! Personally, I think I would enjoy the film more on a second viewing but can't seem to find the time to suffer through it all again.