You will float on air after seeing ‘La La Land’, one of the most joyous experiences I have had in a theatre in a long time. The opening sequence takes place on en endless California freeway, as miles of people get out of the cars and trucks and perform a massive song and dance number that will knock you out. You wonder how the film will ever recover from that stunning opening, but it does, and just keeps floating you higher and higher. It is a bliss out of a movie, the sort that leaves you swooning over the sheer magic of the movies.
‘La La Land’ might be the ultimate love letter to Hollywood musicals, and it wears its heart on its sleeve throughout. Directed by the brilliant Damien Chazelle who gave us Whiplash (2014), this is a return to old style Hollywood musical making, and though it captures the feeling of those sunny old musicals it still packs an edge with its modern-day story.
It is a love story about an ambitious young actress played with Lucille Ball charm by Emma Stone, in a lovely wide-eyed performance audiences will adore, who falls for a moody jazz musician played by Ryan Gosling. I was worried initially we were in for another New York, New York (1977) nightmare ala De Niro, but it never happens, Gosling is very good.
This however announces Emma Stone as a major star, and maybe major actress, but star for sure. She is radiant on the screen with those huge green eyes that allow us into her soul. She can dance, and sing a little, but totally pulls it off. Gosling struggles with the singing, but is a competent dancer and of course a major actor.
It is constantly energetic and bouncy, and the energy on the screen is infectious in every way. It might arguably be the best Hollywood musical made in since Cabaret (1972) (definitely the best since ‘Moulin Rouge!’)