Tuesday’s Reviews – La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sweet, music, musical, review, Ryan Gosling

After La La Land started being nominated and, subsequently, winning a shitload of awards there were plenty of articles suggesting that actors Emma Watson and Miles Teller were livid that they had turned down the chance to be in the film. But it’s just nonsense. The film has achieved such success because Emma Watson and Miles Teller didn’t end up playing the roles. No offence to either of them, and ignoring any rumours of them both being too demanding, but it’s surely the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling that made the film. What is a love story without the love, after all? I know I’m not the biggest fan of Emma Watson as an actor anyway but you can’t pretend that La La Land wouldn’t have been a completely different film without it’s two stars. They can regret giving up on the role now that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are being recognised but who can honestly say that it would have received so many nominations with a different line-up? Nobody. It always strikes me as super bitchy when actor’s talk about giving up on a role. Like they’re just trying to take ownership of something that isn’t theirs and, probably, shouldn’t ever have been. If Emma Watson preferred to be auto-tuned in the remake of Beauty and the Beast instead of the being in this original piece of musical cinema then she has to accept that and let Emma Stone have her moment of glory. It’s just selfish bringing attention to yourself to try and overshadow someone else’s achievements.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ever sure that I was going to see La La Land. I loved how quirky and retro it looked but I was also incredibly worried about how quirky and retro it looked. I mean I love oddities and quirks. I like to consider myself to be vaguely quirky but, have to admit, that it’s mostly wishful thinking and I’m probably fairly normal. What I do find annoying is quirk for quirk’s sake. You know weirdness that doesn’t belong or is misplaced. Like those super irritating girls who describe themselves as “random” because they like doing incredibly normal things. It’s the Zooey Deschanel thing. I’ve always loved her but found New Girl to be a step too far. As if she’s taken the image she’d created and then turned it up to 11 because that’s what she thought people liked about her. Or Noel Fielding. A guy who was beloved for his weird sense of humour on The Mighty Boosh but who went over the edge in his shitty solo offering Luxury Comedy.

When people go out of their way to highlight the things that make them different it can so easily slide into something that feels more like parody or farce. I worried that La La Land would go off the rails. It looked too good to be true so I was too scared to find out for sure. Thankfully, I was wrong and it’s exactly as good as it looks. It puts me in mind of so many classic films but, more importantly for awards season, also The Artist. Both films have taken inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood and have received critical acclaim and countless awards nominations. However, La La Land managed to do what The Artist wasn’t fully able to. It has won around audiences too. People may not be willing to accept a silent movie in the 21st century but they’re more than okay with people singing and dancing in the middle of LA.

Musicals are always going to be accessible and the story is so well-written that it’s impossible not to go along for the ride. The film charts the journey of it’s couple through the changes of the season starting and ending in Winter. We meet Mia (Emma Stone) a struggling actor who, between auditions, works at the coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She has a couple of not so pleasant run-ins with wannabe Jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) before meeting him at a party. Seb, who has only ever been rude and brusque up to Mia at this point, is humiliated to be seen playing synth for a shitty electro outfit. Naturally, when the pair spend time together they come to realise that, despite her hatred of Jazz, they belong together. Their love is pure and childish and delightful to behold. However, the pair are also battling with ambition and must decide what is more important to them: their relationship or their dreams?

It might seem like an age old story that Hollywood has been tackling for year but La La Land keeps it fresh. It is the chemistry between the two actors that makes their love story so tender and sweet. Every part of the film comes together to create something that is truly beautiful and full of joy. The use of colour, the choreography, the music, and the characters are all so perfect. It is a story that so obviously fits into a contemporary setting thanks to observations regarding the Prius fad and YouTube. However, it is also a story that could fit into any time. It is a basic and honest story of two people caught between their dreams and their love. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly heartwarming in equal measures.

There have, of course, been comments regarding the suitability of the film’s stars in terms of musical performers. It’s to be expected but, really, is complete bollocks. Gosling and Stone aren’t the most seasoned of singers but they do an incredibly good job at holding a tune. If anything the lack of polish just makes their story seem more real and captivating. It’s as if, instead of contrived situations in which singers start singing in the street, we are seeing two people with emotions so strong and pure that they can’t help themselves. And the two actors do stupendous jobs in the roles that it would be a crime to have someone else play them so the songs sound better. Emma Stone is just perfect in this film. She is elegant, witty, charming, and slightly beaten down. She is exactly the type of star that Mia has revered all of her life and hopes to become. Ryan Gosling shows great depth here. Seb is someone who is so lost in the past that he is unwilling to accept anything new. He is holding back from himself and from Mia. Gosling plays Seb in a subtle and lovable way so the character never feels too alienating. He’s passionate instead of pretentious and intense. It’s no wonder these two are getting so much attention.

I’ve never been more glad that I ignored my initial thoughts about a film than I have with this. My first instincts told me I’d love this film and it is definitely one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a long time. I instantly wanted to re-watch it and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat. I realise, as the Oscars get closer, that people will criticise it for not seeming important enough to be put in the running for Best Picture. It’s true that La La Land isn’t trying to change the world or change people’s attitudes. It’s not giving a voice to people that don’t have one or trying to right wrongs. But, you know what, who gives a fuck? Things don’t always need to be important. Sometimes joy is enough of a reason. I can’t think of a single film that has given me as much sheer joy as this one in a long time. If that doesn’t make it a worthy nominee then I don’t know what does.

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