Thursday, January 19, 2017

La La Land Review

'I'm letting life hit me until it gets tired. Then I'll hit back. It's a classic rope-a-dope.'

With foot-tapping, ivory tickling energetic fervor, La La Land is causing quite the stir, with seven golden globes tucked neatly beneath its star studded belt already. Mesmerised by a melancholy tune, aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) happens across jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Both chasing dreams in the city of angels, an unlikely romance blossoms.

La La Land is a film of two halves. Where the first half captures the attention, the second captures the film's heart. Dazzling with a flamboyant opening number, nods to Hollywood’s golden era come thick and fast. The problem is that the first half is so enamoured by its influences that it doesn’t quite know what to be. The way Gosling embodies Sebastian initially feels inconsistent and annoying, the writing rushed. As an emotional contrast to Seb’s pragmatic ways, Mia is decidely much more likeable. Her passion for Hollywood is palpable, even in the face of its unflinching scrutiny and superficiality.

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The film's downfall lies in its lack of background exploration with regards to its main characters. Many a perfect opportunity is missed to learn more about Mia or Seb respectively in favour of jumping ahead to musical numbers. The closest we get is learning about how Mia’s aunt inspired her to become an actress. The two protagonists feel flat and two-dimensional at times, cookie cut from a long line of characters we’ve seen before who, whilst in pursuit of their dreams, find love and connection. It’s a story we’ve seen many times, featuring characters with no definable qualities to set them apart. Except maybe Seb’s music snobbery.

As a result of this, we barely touch on more than what’s presented to us on screen. Though not groundbreaking in any sense, Stone and Gosling’s chemistry is there. Stone’s giggling during Gosling’s mistake on their duet of ‘City of Stars’ permeates the structure, and provides a flicker of their natural connection in a moment of spontaneity. It’s moments of unblinking authenticity such a this, not the neon lights against hazy pastel skies, nor the nostalgic sighs to old Hollywood, that give La La Land its warm glow.

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Along with its characters, the film falls back into step and really comes into its own during the second half. La La Land maintains its charm while further building on its characters' chemistry, and relatable themes of love, and the plight of being a struggling artist in an over-crowded industry. The latter half turns out to be the film’s strongest, tackling the raw emotion that ensues with grace and a hint of whimsy. While as a whole, La La Land is a little disjointed, it brims with effervescent quirkiness and charismatic charm.