Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TIFF 16 - Film Review - La La Land

Mia (Emma Stone) is down to the her last glimmer of hope after 6 years of auditions in her attempts to become a working actress. She's a barista at a coffee house on the lot of a major studio so she can at least get the feel of the movie business each day. Mia continues to have random meeting with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who has plans of his own to keep the pure form of jazz alive by opening a club but in the meantime to make money he's forced to take small jobs playing elevator music gigs or synthesizers at corporate parties. Their relationship shifts from anger, to wisecracks to dating while both continue to struggle in an attempt to reach their dreams.

The struggling couples fortunes begin to change when Seb runs into an old music pal Keith (John Legend) who has put a touring pop band together in need of a keyboard player. At the same time Mia works on a one woman show that catches the eye of a major casting agent. However success changes the relationship and each decide they have achieved all they can together  agreeing to go their separate ways.

Damien Chazelle takes another leap forward with his vision as a director following 2014's Whiplash . The film is a send up of the golden age of musicals where the main players follow their dreams as an innocent naiveté fills the air. Chazelle's sweeping camera shots and Peter Pan like choreography for Mia & Seb's first date will thoroughly please audiences. The dialogue peppered with several comedic moments shifts in and out of musical numbers as the action progresses on screen.

Emma Stone gives her best acting performance to date as Mia. She is hanging to the last branch of show business by her fingernails at the outset of the film. She embarks on the one woman show encouraged by Seb that introduces her to a Hollywood heavyweight. Ryan Gosling is cool and stoic  Seb. He finds a degree of success first but it's questionable if his new gig is in line with his dram goal.

La La Land will bring audiences back to the musical in a large way. It may not resurrect the genre but the film is a joyful ride that will be liked by young and old alike. Chazelle has made a significant shift from his last project but has hit the mark again. The choreography is brilliant, the music sections smartly written backed by a pleasing colour palate making it a film I can  recommend.

*** Out of 4.

La La Land | Damien Chazelle | U.S.A. | 2016 | 126 minutes.

Tags: Jazz, Los Angeles, Barista, Auditions, Casting Agent, Observatory, Paris, Touring, The Messengers, Paris, Improv.

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