La La Land takes off on an exuberant song-and -dance journey through a life-changing love affair between a jazz pianist and a hopeful actress.
You may recall the line in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello”. Well La La Land had us here at Showcase Cinemas with the tagline “Here’s to the fools who dream.” Marry that with the third big-screen coupling of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and we are salivating!
Following their star turns in the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013) Gosling and Stone are reunited again in La La Land. Gosling plays Sebastian, a struggling jazz musician who meets an aspiring actress, Mia (Stone). They fall in love but can they survive the city of dreams, known for crushing hopes and breaking the toughest hearts?
The footage and posters we have seen so far look nothing short of majestic, paying homage to the musicals from the golden age of Hollywood.
The film director Damien Chazelle says: “To me, it was important to make a movie about dreamers, about two people who have these giant dreams that drive them, that bring them together, but also tear them apart.”
La La Land is the follow up to his Oscar-winning smash Whiplash, and Chazelle was quick to point both the similarity and differences between the two films.
“La La Land is a very different movie from Whiplash in many ways. But they both deal with something that's really personal to me: how you balance life and art, how you balance reality and dreams and also, specifically, how you balance your relationship to your art with your relationships with other people. With La La Land, I wanted to tell that story using music, song and dance. I think the musical as a genre is a great vehicle for expressing that balancing act between dreams and reality.”
La La Land itself began with a crazy dream. Damien Chazelle wanted to see if he could make a film that channels the magic and energy of the most poignantly romantic French and American musicals of film-making’s Golden Age into our more complicated and jaded age.
Says Chazelle: “With La La Land, I wanted to do a love story and I also wanted to create a musical like the musicals that entranced me as a kid, but updated into something very modern. I wanted to explore how you use colour, sets, costumes and all these very expressionistic elements of old school movie-making to tell a story that takes place in our times.”
“La La Land is about a city that is very epic and unto itself – it’s a widescreen city,” observes Chazelle. “So I thought it would be great to shoot it in widescreen, to make it as a big and spectacular to me as a classic Hollywood musical.”
As fans will attest, Ryan Gosling is never one to take the conventional route, with diverse roles in films such as Half Nelson, Lars and The Real Girl, The Ides of March, Blue Valentine, Drive and The Big Short. As it turned out, Gosling had his own long-held affection for movie musicals that came into play the minute he came aboard.
Says Gosling: “I was really intrigued by the fact that Damien wanted to make a film in the style of that Fred and Ginger and Gene Kelly eras, because those are the musicals that move me. The fact that he wanted this film to have that kind of aesthetic and spirit of playfulness was fantastic because it was also a secret wish of mine to make a film like that.”
The actor dove into months and months of jazz piano lessons, not to mention learning to dance with a modern sense of his heroes Astaire and Kelly.
Chazelle adds: “In fact, there's not a single close-up shot of Sebastian’s hands in the entire movie that's a piano double. It’s all Ryan. The role required an actor with the kind of work ethic that would allow him to become a musical performer for this movie. And Ryan took the dive.”
His co-star and fellow Academy Award nominee, Emma Stone met with Chazelle early on in the process and her director took her through his ideas for some of the musical numbers. “It was intoxicating,” Stone recalls. “The idea of telling this really modern story of two struggling artists but in a 1950s style musical version of today’s Los Angeles became something really exciting to me very quickly.”
Mia’s yearning for something beyond the ordinary also hit home with her. “Mia is driven by something that maybe she doesn’t completely understand,” says Stone. “She wants to be an artist in a city of so many people who seem to be just like her. She feels that there's something special inside her but she doesn't quite know what it is. I could relate to her being an actress and going on auditions but even more so, there was something so exciting about taking her into this musical world where you can suddenly spin down the street or burst into song. That was a wonderful challenge.”
With this level of attention to detail it is no surprise that there is plenty of early Oscar buzz around La La Land. We look forward to it opening in the New Year
La La Land opens at Showcase Cinemas on January 13.