La La Land – a movie review by Roz Tarszsisz

December 20, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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It has been a long time since a movie like this graced cinema screens.

Writer and director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has fashioned an homage to the romantic musical comedies of yesteryear. A the same time it’s an ode to the city of Los Angeles which he has morphed into a somewhat  magical place. From the energetic opening dance scene set on a gridlocked motorway to the final fantasy sequence, La La Land is a wonder of whimsical charm.

Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, unsuccessfully auditions for a variety of roles. She works in a film lot coffee shop and when a successful actress comes in to buy her own coffee, you can see the stars in Mia’s eyes. She keeps running into struggling musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who aspires to have his own jazz club. He woos her and they fall in love.  J.K. Simmons – playing a small role with his usual brio – is an unsentimental club owner who fires Sebastian for playing his beloved jazz.

Life throws the young folk plenty of challenges but they still have their dreams and support each other.  Enhancing the nostalgic mood, the narrative is broken up by placards announcing the change of seasons and giving a sense of the passage of time.

When Keith (John Legend) an old musician buddy offers Sebastian a travelling gig, he takes the opportunity to earn some decent money.  Rosemarie deWitt plays Sebastian’s older sister, Laura, who is keen for him to have a life.

From her auditions, it’s obvious that Mia has the makings of a great actress and I like the way she is demurely dressed even when she looks sexy.  Sebastian is sweet and charming and the two have great chemistry. While not quite Fred and Ginger, they both handle their dance scenes with great aplomb, and I found myself caring what happens to these two young people with big aspirations.

A scene where Sebastian takes Mia to the LA Observatory is pure fantasy that somehow works. Perhaps it could have been a bit shorter overall but the action never drags.  With a terrific score that bounces the action along, this feel-good tale is full of infectious joy.

4/5   128mins  Rated M   Released 26 December

Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Directed and written by Damien Chazelle

Score composed and orchestrated by Justin Hurwitz

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