Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, John Legend, Amiée Conn, Terry Walters, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jason Fuchs, Olivia Hamilton, Finn Wittrock, Josh Pence.
If you don’t understand the language then Jazz might leave you cold, the same could be said for musicals, the rituals, the spontaneity, the drama and the freedom, all are entwined in a system that may seem uncoordinated, clumsy to the naked ear, but let it flow over you, lose your inhibitions and don’t talk through it, don’t talk above it and it will grab your interest. It is in that freedom of expression that the two genres, Jazz and the American Musical come together to make something beautiful in La La Land.
In any filmed musical, the chemistry between the two leads is vital, even before the songs or the mood, the chemistry is what brings the film to life; without the spark that must viewed by the cinema goer, the film loses everything, its credibility, its panache, its direction. Without the spark imagine Grease without Olivia Newton John and John Travolta, Les Miserables without Hugh Jackman and Anna Hathaway; devoid of any sexual tension or the keen eyed love there can be no music that makes sense, without it you have Grease 2.
Thankfully what carries La La Land all the way is the confidence that both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone exhibit at all times in each other’s performance; it is a spark, a chemistry, it might not be the one many might have expected, the self satisfying ooze of raw sexuality pouring from the flowing skirts of West Side Story or the return to 50s High School nostalgia in Grease but there was undoubtedly affection between Ms. Stone and Mr. Reynolds, trust in each other’s virtues and the result certainly showed in their timing and warmth.
La La Land is special, it reminds us that joy is not meant to be linear, a progression of landing the first great job without the suffering before hand, that like Jazz, it must flow without being obstructed, to truly feel the pain and learn from the randomness of existence, one must feel the ambition, the idea and run with it as far as the song in the soul will carry it.
A triumph of modern musicals, La La Land encapsulates everything you would want from the genre without being over heavy on the slush that can sometimes drive a film to the walls of failed expectation.
Ian D. Hall