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|La La Land|
dir-scr Damien Chazelle
prd Fred Berger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt
with Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, JK Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Pence, Jason Fuchs, Jessica Rothe, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno
release US 2.Dec.16, UK 13.Jan.17
16/US Summit 2h06
Movie magic: Gosling and Stone
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This colourful musical about Los Angeles is both a celebration and a cautionary tale about the city of dreams. Its buoyant tone and fizzy performances make it a delight from start to finish, even when things turn rather dark along the way. Writer-director Damien Chazelle proves that Whiplash was no fluke: this is a bravura display of pure cinematic joy.
On a hot winter day, Mia (Stone) first encounters Sebastian (Gosling) in a nasty traffic jam. She's working as a barista in between acting auditions, annoyed that she never seems to get noticed by anyone. Meanwhile, Sebastian is a gifted jazz musician frustrated that classic venues are being turned into samba tapas bars. It's not until their third meeting that they take notice of each other, launching into an unexpected romance, encouraging each other to pursue dreams that seemed unattainable. But this city doesn't make it easy to succeed without compromising everything you stand for.
Chazelle opens the film with a magnificent musical number on a gridlocked overpass, reminding us that in Hollywood the possibilities seem endless. And setting parts of the story on the studio lot where Mia works offers some pointedly witty visuals. It's even more arresting since the bold camerawork captures scenes in long, snaky takes that highlight the intriguingly timeless primary-coloured costumes and glamorous settings. Indeed, the film feels like a gleeful mash-up of every backstage Hollywood musical ever made.
Gosling and Stone have always had extraordinary chemistry, and here they add a prickly edge that makes their characters even more irresistible, especially when they cut loose in another elaborate song-and-dance number. Their one-take, dizzying hillside tapdance What a Waste of a Lovely Night is funny, sexy and absolutely gorgeous. And their performances find even more resonance in their more serious moments, as real life clashes with their hopes and fantasies.
The wonderful message through all of this is that life needs to be lived like a jazz song, improvisationally, seizing the limelight whenever you get the chance, ending up perhaps somewhere you didn't expect to go when you started. Chazelle miraculously manages to be both idealistic and gritty at the same time, revelling in the magic of Hollywood while also exploring its dangers. This makes the movie both optimistic and bittersweet at the same time. And with its fantastic song score, it's also the kind of movie you'll want to watch again and again.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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