LA LA LAND

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3 stars
From the opening scene – a musical song and dance number set on a grid-locked Los Angeles freeway – it's clear that La La Land is aiming to be an unusual experience.
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It's a thrilling start to Damian Chazelle's (Whiplash) often exhilarating film about two artists trying to make it big in Hollywood. And if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere; that's the kernel of this riff on the American Dream.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a talented jazz pianist frustrated by colourless set-lists handed out by the hotels he works in. He dreams of owning his own bar. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress frustrated by her inability to cut through. She dreams of opening her own theatre company. Naturally they meet and (inevitably) fall in love while Chazelle sets their romance to music and dance.

La La Land cleaned up at this year's Golden Globe Awards and will no doubt do the same at the Oscars. Hollywood loves a story about Hollywood, especially one as bright, whimsical and well made as this. Packed with toe-tapping songs, inspired set pieces and the superior looks of Gosling and Stone, how could you go wrong?

Yet behind the Colgate smile there's a thinness to the experience which, ironically, speaks to the greater story of Tinsel Town's shiny, vacuous heart. The boy meets girl essence of La La Land is threadbare, its wrappings a retread of similar stories from the 1940s and its pretensions to the art of jazz only that. Gosling and Stone are easy company (their singing is serviceable, their dancing earns a B), but they lack the chemistry of a Rogers/Astaire coupling that they so wilfully ape.

Without that chemical veneer, cracks soon appear. Granted it is often an exhilarating film but like any sugar rush, La La Land lacks any long term sustenance or dietary value, although maybe that's the point. It’s the ultimate reflection of the city, and the American Dream.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney on 12 December 2016.
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STARRING
Emma Stone
Ryan Gosling
Rosmarie De Witt
J.K. Simmons

DIRECTOR
Damian Chazelle

SCREENWRITER
Damian Chazelle

COUNTRY

USA

CLASSIFICATION
M

RUNTIME
128 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
December 26, 2016
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La La Land (2016) on IMDb
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