Pre Christmas everything but the movie industry, and people’s credit cards, is wound right down. The busiest part of the year is about to kick off with the biggest money makers of the year about to release. Not only that but it is getting very close to Oscar time and the Oscar season of movies is now in full swing. LA LA LAND is a magical (non-animation) musical, something not seen for quite a while in cinemas, and it is going to race hard for an Oscar or more. For me it will come down to two leading ladies, Natalie Portman for JACKIE (review coming) and my goddess, Emma Stone, for this piece of amazing cinema. LA LA LAND is releasing on Boxing Day in Australia from the awesome peeps at Entertainment One. It runs for 128mins and is rate M. Get into it!
LA LA LAND SYNOPSIS
On the surface LA LA LAND is a simple plot. Girl meets boy, girl hates boy, they keep running into each other, they fall in love and music plays, queue credits. But just under the simple plot is a beautiful much deeper story. A story that is written as if it is a jazz song. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is old-school jazz obsessed to the point of manic. Mia (Emma Stone) is a young girl from the burbs trying to become a serious actor in Hollywood, going to casting after casting and getting slammed and tired of rejection. She is a Hollywood romantic and loves everything about it, working on a movie studio as a barista and longing to be one of the famous actors she sees regularly coming in for coffee.
Sebastian describes jazz to Mia on one of their early dates, trying to get her to like the music genre. He explains everything going on on-stage and that people are all working in unison for the song, playing the melody, but also breaking out from the melody and doing their own wondrous thing, crazy and vibrant but in the end working together. That description of jazz to Mia is the heart and soul of the movie and the two characters discussing it. Like blues, jazz is also about heart and pain and is played not from the mind but the soul, and that, again, is the two lead characters.
LA LA LAND is classified as an art-house movie, basically one of the largest art-house movies to ever open in the US. It is going crazy over there at the moment. While the script and direction is marvellous, the cinematography and choreography splendid, this movie is hugely successful because of two elements, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Their chemistry is next level and will make you laugh, cry, snicker, and weep. Both Gosling and Stone are fantastic as individuals but together these guys are unstoppable, they are as good as Bogart and Bergman, Han and Leia, DiCaprio and Winslet. They just sizzle with limited acting, they just have to look at each other and you want them to be a real life couple. I long to be their wedding ring bearer :).
They can actually dance well and sing superb. You will notice that every photo in this review is just them together, that’s because nothing else matters, it is only them for me.
THE MUSICAL ELEMENT:
Making a musical in Hollywood these days is hit and miss, most studios avoid them. Back in the 20s through to the 60s they were abundant with about thirty or so each year. In the last ten or so years we are lucky to get five a year and this includes telemovies. They are happy and melodic and capture a magic that has nearly disappeared from Hollywood movies.
LA LA LAND mostly captures this magic but some of the earlier singing was too soft to be fully appreciated. There was no belting tunes, no singer who just hit those musical moments that make you go “holy shit yes yes yes.” For most of the movie Emma Stone sung too soft, I love her whispy scratchy tones but she sung in that more whisper key and never smashed it out of the park. That is until her moment, her last song, a song that had me openly weeping in the cinema and showed a vocal range I never knew she had. Was this because before this moment Mia was still trying to be a successful actor, did she just not hold the confidence to be who we knew she could be? Once she had that confidence it was like HOLY F**K!
Gosling is just charming with his singing, I now realise why so many people just swoon over him. That little dimple lip curl smirk and his natural acting chops is all we need. He is just bloody gifted.
The jazz in LA LA LAND is sublime and the one melodic heartbeat song of the movie is something I have kept humming since seeing the movie, I will buy this soundtrack.
LA LA LAND needs to be seen for Stone and Gosling. The Oscar race is between the very serious but marvellous Portman in JACKIE and this shining light marvel from Stone. While this lulled in the middle, and I was starting to worry, the last 30mins is one of the most beautiful happy sad 30mins of cinema this year and it brings this movie back to the where it belongs, in my Top Films of 2016. From WHIPLASH to LA LA LAND Damien Chazelle is a new generation Hollywood director who will own La La Land very soon. Marvellous.
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movieindustry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.