They say the world is dying. They say movies are dead. And they say movie musicals are definitely dead. But there is a cure to this savagery; there is an antidote to this absurdity. It is a movie. It is a musical. It is a musical about movies. It’s called La La Land and it is here to save your life.
But it won’t come to you. You must go to it. You have been wronged far too often, I know; the movies have wronged us all. They have stood us up, left us alone on rainy curbs, but you must put your faith in them, one last time, if only to restore it. You must run to La La Land.
It is the story of two dreamers, lost in the City of Stars. He is an aspiring jazz pianist, and she, a hopeful actor with posters of Ingrid Bergman on her wall. Their paths cross, again and again and again in a montage of expertly choreographed numbers as they navigate the magic realism of La La Land, and struggle with their hopes and dreams in a city that can be as stifling as it is inspiring.
Save for a major upset, La La Land will win the Academy Award for Best Picture in February 2017 – not because it should – but because it absolutely must.
From its euphoric opening number, set on a Los Angeles freeway, to its final, melancholic moments, inside a jazz club; there is not a single moment, not a single glint in the eye, a single smile, a single swish of the dress that doesn’t completely envelope you with its irrepressible charm. It’ll sweep you off your feet, and for 2 hours, it’ll make you fall in love with the movies again.
It might even have the power to single-handedly revive the dying theatre-going experience. It may not be able to save the musical, but for as long as it exists – as long as movies exist – it will ensure that the respect this genre deserves is given to it, even as it takes its last bow, and limps off the stage, having danced to the bitter end.
And for as long as every Friday brings with it new attractions at the local theatre, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will be remembered as one of the most iconic romantic couples in Hollywood history, just like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, or, keeping with the musical theme, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
There’s something enchanting about watching Ryan Gosling’s face, isn’t there… bathed in the neon of a Los Angeles night, and dripping in the magic hour twilight of its days. With more classics on his CV than most actors can manage in five-decade-long careers, can there be any doubt now that Ryan Gosling is a movie star in the league of Brando, De Niro, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant? I pity the person who walks away from this film, and its two central performances, not having been utterly astounded by its brilliance.
Shot by Linus Sandgren in Cinemascope (!), and on film (!), so beautifully that you could blindly pick any frame of La La Land, and frame it on your wall – it’s almost as if the camera is dancing with them. Los Angeles has never looked so good, and neither have its many iconic, cinematic locations that the movie twists and twirls between. Griffith Observatory, Angel’s Flight, Chateau Marmont… They’re all venerable old movie characters now. It was good to see them again.
But director Damien Chazelle, that champion of cinema… In times like these, when most people prefer staying at home, has given us a reason to march to the theatres once again. You could always watch La La Land on your mobile phone or laptop, but to experience it on the biggest screen possible is an opportunity not to be missed. And on IMAX, it was overwhelming. There was applause, there were groans, there was laughter. And there were tears.
Chazelle is leading the fight to preserve the magic of the movies. His previous film Whiplash was my favourite of 2014. La La Land is one of my favourites of all time. Depending on how life has treated you, its final moments will be either devastating or irrecoverably shattering. It’s one of the finest sequences ever put on film.
But now, it is time to wait, it is time to consume mediocrity that will surely kill us one day. But this time we wait with renewed faith. Perhaps it’ll be another year till something as great as this comes around. Perhaps it’ll be two. Perhaps we’ll be waiting all our lives. But at least now, we know that it is coming. There is hope yet. The movies are alive. You are alive.