Film Review: La La Land is refreshingly nostalgic


In a Tinder generation where love stories begin with more of a swipe than a meet cute, La La Land launches audiences on a refreshing journey of nostalgic cinematic romance in the modern world. No swiping required.

The tale of two struggling artistic types takes place in the vast yet glamorous city of Los Angeles. The opening scene starts like most days in LA, in a traffic jam upon a freeway. The camp-yet-cute number ‘Another Day of Sun’, the first in this musical concept, showcases the many would-be’s just trying to make it in this town. The tale told by the season shows serendipity hard at work in an attempt to bring two unlikely lovers together. Mia (Emma Stone), an unassuming barista on the Warner Brothers lot, grappling with endless auditions meets Seb (Ryan Gosling). He’s a barely likeable but obscenely good looking jazz nut with big dreams of opening his own club.

This is a love story told in dual perspectives of how two lives can completely run into one another in a cinematic kaleidoscope of colour and song. First and foremost, this is a musical, so we must flirt with the surreal. There’s total homage to great old Hollywood scenes that have come before. Most musical geeks might pick up on an extraordinary scene where Mia and Seb dance in a park overlooking the city, reminiscent of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon. There are dreamlike scenes where the lovers dance across skylines but the story at its core is disturbingly real. We watch two lovers talk about their dreams and encourage one another as their worlds merge and deep feelings are told by hauntingly beautiful numbers such as ‘City of Stars’. However a lust for fame, for purpose and to be what the other wants them to be strains the aspirational two. We observe this surreal extension of Hollywood romance become raw and real with the harsh tug of fame dragging Mia and Seb in different directions. As we pass through the seasons, the success of one and not the other takes its toll and the relationship decays.

The most beautiful thing about this film is, despite its almost Baz Luhrmann-like cinematic eccentricity, the story is deeply simple. It’s old fashioned romance during the fall and it’s modern love in a sense that people have to go their own way and eventually separate for mundane reasons. It’s one hundred and one relationships that fall apart in the least dramatic way to take the characters on their next cosmic twist. The acting however is anything but average. This was the role Emma Stone was born to play. Her wide eyed cute-but-quirky over the top character marries well with an understated Ryan Gosling. Neither one is the best dancer or singer but that’s what makes it endearing. It’s the everyday relatable nature of the film, two regular people trying to be extraordinary. It’s a film to fall in love to, a film to dredge up that romance you maybe shouldn’t have left and a laugh to be shared with many audiences to come.

La La Land is released in Australia on Boxing Day. For other territories, check local listings.

Samantha Dickson


Review by Samantha Dickson.