BFI LFF 2016: LA LA LAND (2016)

La La Land

Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is a bittersweet musical love letter to Hollywood and Los Angeles.


by Alexa Dalby

La La Land

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

La La Land combines the charm of golden era of Hollywood musicals with the visual flair of French maestro Jacques Demy. Like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, it’s explosion of primary colours and of ordinary life bursting into spontaneous song and dance to a pervading musical score. Its old-fashioned love story feels like a pastiche of the classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers nimble-footed romcoms.

Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a struggling, free-wheeling pianist who wants to open a jazz club. Emma Stone is an aspiring actress, working in stereotypical style in the coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot, and who hates jazz. They both have a dream and clearly they’re made for each other in romcomland. John Legend stars as a successful mainstream musician – the kind that Sebastian thinks has sold out – and Oscar-winning JK Simmons has a cameo as a restaurant owner.

But as their romance blooms and time passes through Spring to Winter, it seems that following the dream may not always bring happiness. As in Sliding Doors, with a chance meeting Chazelle shows us the possibilities of an alternative reality and it’s bittersweet.

La La Land is cute, pretty and fabulously entertaining but it’s not happy ever after. Hollywood has broken many hearts. There are dreams and then there’s reality – but the pull of Hollywood always wins in the end.

La La Land screens on 7, 8 and 16 October 2016 at the BFI London Film Festival.


Join the discussion