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La La Land, review: ‘Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make this film special’

PUBLISHED: 10:37 10 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 10 January 2017

La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Picture: Dale Robinette

La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Picture: Dale Robinette

Archant

Stone and Gosling steal the show with strong screen presence in a film that’s too much fun to win an Oscar

In my present, which is your past, the romantic musical La La Land is the frontrunner to rule at this year’s Oscars. I can’t see that happening - it’s too much fun. The Academy will try to embrace the film as a celebration of Hollywood, but ultimately they’re bound to search out something weighty and dull to honour in its place.

Chazelle’s debut, jazz-drumming bootcamp drama Whiplash was kinetic and intense, fiercely controlled with vacuum packed editing.

Here he shoots things in long floaty tracking shots, dissolves and uses lots of lens flare and green and blues to create a dream vision; its bright lights are a join-the-dots approximation of the real Los Angeles.

It all looks lovely but there isn’t a single memorable song. The film opens with a big musical number set on a clogged, stationary freeway.

It’s a nod to the opening of Fellini’s 8½ but as all these bright young things start cavorting energetically around their stationary vehicles, the girls in short skirts that flash their sensible, sturdy Bucks Fizz dancer underpants, it’s like a dance number on Summertime Special. Which may be the point – it’s a film about people who want life to be a musical but aren’t quite up to being in a musical.

La La Land is notable for being built entirely out of broken dreams; all the failed efforts from big name directors to revitalise and reinvent the big screen musical, such as One From The Heart, They All Laughed, Everybody Says I Love You.

All these films tried to democratise the Hollywood musical, take it away from the hoofers and the jazz handers, the belters and bojangleurs, and make it a vehicle for the ordinary Joe, sometimes the ordinary Joe who couldn’t sing or dance.

What makes the film special is that oldest of Hollywood magic – stars. Gosling and Stone may not be able to do much more than carry a tune and follow the steps to the dance routines with Strictly concentration, but their screen presence is so strong that it outweighs all objections.

A few years from now we will probably look back and wonder what the hell we all got so excited about. But for now, go with it.

Halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com: Live By Night and Woody Allen blu-ray The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Rating: 4/5 stars


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