Back in 2015, Damien Chazelle came out of nowhere and blew us all away with the masterpiece that is Whiplash. This year, he has done it again, with his sophomore feature: La La Land.

Whiplash is one of my favourite films to have released within the past few years so, for that reason alone, I was anticipating Chazelle's follow-up film. With two remarkable leads in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and all the incredible buzz surrounding it, I had high expectations for La La Land. And it did not disappoint. This is enamoring and gorgeous and up there alongside Whiplash as one of the best films of the past few years - albeit if that is a hair better than La La Land - that proves Damien Chazelle is a genius behind the camera. Not only does La La Land exceed as a musical, it's also a brilliant romance too with some genuinely hilarious comedy throughout and it's also a masterclass in directing and cinematography and acting too. It ticks all the right boxes.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress, that spends her days auditioning for roles when she's not already occupied as a barista on the Warner Bros. movie lot (serving coffees to those she dreams to be - how meta). Meanwhile, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician with the dream of one-day opening up a jazz club and sharing his love for the dying music form with others. But, he goes from gig to gig, playing at a various bars and parties to help him get the money he needs until he can do so. After a brief exchange between the two at the start of the film, their random encounters with one another start becoming a regularity and they soon find themselves in love. But, as their relationship goes on, it begs the question: love, or ambition?

La La Land opens with a big, colourful musical number when everyone starts singing and dancing during a traffic jam on the highway. The song is titled 'Another Day of Sun' and, fittingly, plays out to a sun-drenched, vibrant setting, with bright, colourful costumes and set pieces alike - there's a refreshing sense of old-school here, with Chazelle tipping his hat to the early days of cinema; the 'golden age', if you will. Despite being a contemporary film set in the modern-day - which we're constantly reminded of throughout - La La Land has a very classic aesthetic and tone to it, from the opening sequence through to the very last. It's very much a throwback to old films such as Casablanca; whilst many have called it a love letter to Hollywood, I would disagree and rather say it's a love-letter to cinema and film and this industry and what it once used to be. It certainly plays like an old classic. It's also a visually gorgeous film; from such a bright colour palette to the truly stunning cinematography and big, sweeping shots of L.A, this is a film that is bursting with eye-candy and it is simply beautiful to look at.

Damien Chazelle is a genius behind the camera This is a storyteller and filmmaker that knows what he's doing and if you somehow weren't sold on that with Whiplash then La La Land will undoubtedly make his case. This is such a spellbinding and dazzling picture; it's a big, sweeping musical epic that will rush you off your feet in the most exciting of ways. Yet, it remains small and heartfelt and never feels like it's trying too hard to be a throwback or to win you over. It's masterfully directed, with the musical numbers all just so impressive. Nothing can quite top the opening number - visually arresting and made all the more stunning because it's one, long take - but the other ones are all incredible in their own right; the choreography and the direction is impeccable and, again, the cinematography is astounding ('A Lovely Night', sung and danced by Gosling and Stone over the L.A sunset is a highlight) and the music is all just so damn catchy - 'Someone in the Crowd', elegantly performed by Mia and her friends is a personal favourite. It never feels grating or forced either and rather transitions from story to music so seamlessly.

It also helps that we have talented leads at the forefront of all the flair on-screen and Chazelle has found two perfect ones in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They're so charismatic and likable and bring the right level of heart and enigma to their performances; Gosling, especially, is the more cynical of the pair and this brings plenty of laughs and humour due to this. However, it's Stone that steals the show here. She turns in a career best performance as Mia and deserves the Oscar that's coming her way. The pair have such magnetic chemistry too and it makes everything that little bit sweeter because it's all the more charming and believable. Mia and Sebastian are such genuine, relatable people: in short, they're dreamers. And this is a film for the dreamers, showing us - through Mia and Seb's strifes and struggles - that, no matter what, we should never stop believing in ourselves and never give up on chasing our dreams. It's all so achingly romantic too, as they both encourage each other to chase their dreams; as Mia falls for jazz through Seb's eyes; as Seb pushes Mia to write and perform her play. They're so cute and romantic and it's heart-melting and touching to watch; it will also make you long for such love.

Whilst tonally completely different from the cutthroat Whiplash, Damien Chazelle has followed that masterpiece with another masterpiece. La La Land is note-perfect. Similarly to its predecessing directorial piece, though, both films are about ambition and stopping at nothing to achieve your dreams. It's rather inspiring, especially coming from someone as young as Chazelle, who clearly feels he has achieved his dream. La La Land is a film bursting with colour and nostalgia - this is a musical akin to the classics like Willy Wonka and West Side Story - yet it never feels like a rehash or pastiche. As colourful and hopeful as this film is, however, it still comes emotionally charged and has a real edge of melancholy to it in the latter stages of its run-time. But, after 2017 kicked off on a sombre note with A Monster Calls and Manchester By The Sea, a film like La La Land is exactly what we need to sprinkle some hope and joy into the new year; this a film that will sweep you off your feet and leave you smiling and dancing and with a wisp of optimism for weeks to come. La La Land is the kind of film that sticks with you; it's pure movie magic. You'll be gushing for days; it's going to be tough to top this one.

VERDICT:

La La Land is the most enamoring and dazzling of films. This is a musical masterpiece that will sweep you up, take your breath away and leave you gushing and in awe, with a smile on your face and dance in your toes.




About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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