Director: Damien Chazelle Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone Running Time: 128 minutes
Having been subjected to months of hype and subsequently inevitable backlash, it has been almost impossible to go into La La Land without expectations being shaped one way or another. Is it truly the greatest thing since sliced bread, is it a musical for people who don’t like musicals, does it deserve the onslaught of accolades or is it merely the dreaded “Oscar Bait”, to be forgotten as soon as everyone files out of the Dolby Theatre on February 26th? That label and the associations that go with it, that La La Land is deliberately designed at every level to take home Academy Awards, are cynical accusations to make, but we live in cynical times. That is what makes La La Land such an appealing throwback, an abandonment of reality that shows its beautiful stars pursuing and achieving their dreams in the brightest light possible. There’s not much of our real world in struggling actress Mia’s massive apartment decked in classic film posters, or on the various, impossibly romantic dates she shares with jazz fanatic Sebastian. Reality is the antagonist of La La Land, right from the opening where dozens and dozens of motorists abandon an LA gridlock for a showstopping musical number, through Mia’s numerous, disastrous auditions and Seb’s jazz dogmatism setting him back over and over, reality is what the characters are trying to overcome to find happiness.