There was a time when musicals were one of cinemas most popular genres and stars like Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly were among the most famous in Hollywood. But somewhere along the way it lost its place. There have been exceptions – Les Miserables, Chicago and Moulin Rouge all proved popular. Yet, for the most part, as the rest of the movie world leapt into the 21st Century – musicals faded away.
Nowadays the closest we come to the movie musical on a regular basis is through the world of Disney – not a bad thing by any means, but it’s not quite the same. I must confess I went into La La Land quite cynically, believing all the five star reviews were the result of ecstasy at finally seeing a musical that doesn’t open with the Walt Disney logo. I also went in as a less than enthusiastic musical fan (there are only a few exceptions) so I can hardly express my delight.
In the glitz of L.A, a city home to America’s rich and famous, we meet two down-on-their-luck 20-somethings. Mia (Emma Stone) dropped out of college to pursue her acting dreams but is slowly losing hope after countless unsuccessful auditions. Elsewhere in the city lives Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who fantasises about sharing his love of jazz with the world, but instead finds himself playing Christmas jingles in a fancy restaurant.
After a series of brief encounters, the pair finally get together and we are whisked along with them as they experience the highs and lows of new love.
From the instant an L.A commuter decides to liven up a traffic jam with a song and dance number – encouraging her fellow commuters to do the same – we are thrown into a world that only exists in musicals. Ordinarily, this spontaneous burst into song annoys me, but in the case of La La Land I was enthralled. Whether this was influenced by watching it on the big screen in a crowded cinema on a Saturday night, I don’t know and the truth is I don’t care, because every ounce of joy you’re supposed to feel watching a musical I felt from beginning to end.
Despite the many throwbacks to classic Hollywood films, La La Land definitely feels like a musical for the modern age. Ringing mobile phones interrupt romantic moments, the dilemma of searching for a lost car becomes a daily struggle and the 80s hit I ran is used to excellent comic effect. This humour works perfectly alongside the many upbeat songs and dance numbers. But the best thing about La La Land? That has to be Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Collaborating for the third time since 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, it goes without saying that the extraordinarily talented stars have impeccable chemistry. This they combine with the unique wit and charm they bring to their roles, making their characters extremely likeable.
Ryan Gosling’s singing skills leave a lot to be desired and as the film moves into its final section it seems to momentarily forget its a musical. But it puts you on such a high it’s unlikely you’ll care.
Its rare that I see a film that makes me experience such a level of happiness. La La Land is a reminder of how wonderful movie musicals can be and why they should never, ever be forgotten.