Much hype comes attached to Damien Chazelle’s highly anticipated follow up to the exhaustingly superb Whiplash. It’s hype that it sadly can’t quite live up to but everyone will have a great time regardless. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling headline in La La Land, a sprawling, opulent, indulgent and magnificently rendered love letter to the musicals of yore. At least, that’s kind of what its aiming for. I’m not convinced it quite made it.
Stone is Mia, textbook aspiring actor, working her ass off in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros lot in La, whilst attending soul destroying auditions and ignoring her lurking writing talent. Gosling is a frustrated jazz pianist, constantly hounded out of his pointless day jobs for failing to stick to the very generic playlists foisted upon him by philistine restaurant managers. The two chance upon each other in traffic and then again in a club and then again and then again and so forth until they fall in love and fall out of love and, well, you get the idea.
To be fair, plot was never going to be the thing that kept this one rolling, it’s all about the music darling. And it gets off to an absolutely blinding start with a magical number in a gigantic traffic jam in downtown LA. Full of all of the exuberance you’d expect from a full on back in the day MGM musical number, it’s a fantastic start and, sadly, the movie never really finds itself afterwards. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad movie, Stone and Gosling make a great couple and as we know, Chazelle knows a thing or two about jazz and as a series of set pieces it’s pretty entertaining, it just isn’t the barnstorming showstopper I was expecting.
As we follow the star struck couple through a multicolour LA, they face the usual trials of a movie couple, he goes on the road, she bares her soul in a one-woman show in an attempt to kick start her movie career, he doesn't turn up because not his fault, things don’t quite work out how they would like. To be honest, I’m struggling to say anything strong one way or another about La La Land, which pretty much nails my appreciation of it. I enjoyed the whimsical musical numbers and the central pair make for a charming couple. But beyond that, I expected more from Chazelle. One for the crowds I suspect but I’ll be very disappointed if Oscar comes calling.