La La Land (PG13: some coarse language)
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone Directed by Damien Chazelle
Emma Stone is the aspiring actress Mia, serving coffee on the Warner Bros studio lot between endless humiliating auditions; Ryan Gosling is jazz pianist Sebastian.
The two struggling artists meet and fall in love. La La Land written and directed by Damien Chazelle is a song-and-dance journey through four seasons in their life-changing affair of ardour, hope, crushed dreams and broken hearts with modern-day Los Angeles the backdrop.
Chazelle’s last film, the 2014 Whiplash, was also a parable on the compromises and sacrifice in the pursuit of art: JK Simmons won the Oscars’ best supporting actor and cameos here as “Boss,” the crusty restaurant owner who hires, then fires, Sebastian on Christmas Day for playing free-form jazz instead of ‘Jingle Bells.’
Chazelle reaffirms his own passion for pop culture with this 21st century valentine to the French and Hollywood musical comedy romance of the ’50s Golden Age, to Gene Kelly, Jacques Demy, Cole Porter, Technicolor and Charlie Parker.
It’s a risky undertaking because of the unabashed, unfashionable nostalgia, which Chazelle embraces for an open-hearted rhapsody.
The production numbers are inventively staged and choreographed with verve. Gosling and Stone share well-practiced chemistry in their third movie together after Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013), his gloomy charisma sparking off her doe-eyed candor, and their hesitant, imperfect singing, neither being a professional singer, especially endearing: Stone was named Best Actress at Venice International Film Festival.
However magical, including a sequence of the couple drifting mid-waltz into the stars, the emotions feel real from euphoric start to bittersweet finish. 4/5