La La Land review: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in this giddy, joyous tale of young love in the big city

Melissa York
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La La Land

The unanimous backslap that greeted La La Land at the Golden Globes last week has only reinforced the idea that Hollywood is head-over-heels, all-weekend-in-bed, marriage-and-babies in love with itself.

And why not when it can churn out hits like this. La La Land is entirely deserving of its praise, and so much more than a love letter to Los Angeles. There are no long shots of Venice beach, not one frame featuring the Hollywood sign, and the cast spend more time in traffic than they do gazing at the skyline.

It’s really the story of a big city – any big city – and the dreamers who flock to them in search of fame and fortune. It’s a universal dance most of us undertake when we’re young and full of possibility, caught between fantasy and reality, what our lives could be versus what they actually are.

Our spirit guides are Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia, a barista/actress, and Sebastian, a jobbing musician who dreams of owning a jazz bar. Neither is a natural singer or dancer, but they’re also good enough that it’s never a distraction.

What they lack in musicality they make up for in chemistry, first seen fizzing away in Crazy Stupid Love, bubbling over in Gangster Squad and positively effervescing in La La Land. They meet in a traffic jam in a cheese fest of an opening scene that sees drivers dancing on top of their cars on the freeway, which is best taken in knowing jest.

Whiplash director Damien Chazelle (who also wrote La La Land’s excellent script) does well to ground the rest of the film in Mia and Seb’s relationship, although he isn’t immune to a spot of whimsy; one scene has the pair dancing among the stars – as in the super-heavy balls of space-gas – in the night sky.

But these moments are tempered with just enough self-awareness to make them bearable to even the most hardened cynic. Its constant homages to classic cinema – singing through film sets, dance numbers in swimming pools – are sure to charm the popcorn off any cinephile.

“Here’s to the ones who dream”, sings Stone. And here’s to La La Land, a modern classic in the making.

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