Sweet, charming and full of bounce are just a few of the words that have been used to describe what could, perhaps surprisingly, be this month’s biggest blockbuster hit. It certainly won critics over en masse since first appearing at the Venice film festival last summer.
La La Land, in case the massive ad campaign has passed you by, may or may not be just what the doctor ordered. In a month wherein we’ve been very quickly, and bluntly, reminded of 2017’s home truths such as America’s penchant for public shootings, the imminent arrival of Donald Trump in The White House, and the fact that nobody in the UK knows that the hell is going on with Brexit, perhaps all we really need is some good old MGM-style song and dance.
Major musical movies are a funny bunch. Some people loathe them on principle- why would anyone, ever, break into impromptu lyricism in order to get their point across. They are so darn sweet and innocent and 1950s that half of you feels jealous- why don’t you live in a time when the Dream was still alive and all was good apart from behind closed doors nightmares. Then the other half of you is grateful for actually being able to switch over to something sardonic, cynical, and befitting this post-millennial reality.
La La Land makes the latter difficult, and the former easy. Yes, it’s chintzy, unbelievable and silly. But it’s also incredibly well made, touching and truly moving. Leads coming in the shape of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone don’t harm its chances of winning over both male and female audiences either. Then you have the final big sell- this is made by Damien Chazelle, director of the drumming masterpiece Whiplash.
In terms of the plot, Stone plays a young lady called Mia, who has ambitions of becoming a movie star. She’s sweet and innocent and so 1950s you just know her counterpoint is going to be nothing like that. And he’s not. Gosling is Seb, jaded, moody to the point of being a bit of an arse, and definitely not the sort of guy prone to breaking into song about normal things. But he does, again and again, as the pair strike up a love affair that will simultaneously reaffirm your faith in finding the one, and confirm your worst fears about life lacking the happy ending so many of us are promised. In the end, the tragedy is jarringly everyday, and lacking in melodrama, but a dramatic finale sees us dropped back in our own time- an era of loneliness, heartbreaks and void of ever afters. Amazing stuff.