When it comes to film, I don’t often use the word beautiful. However, I can think of no better adjective to describe Damien Chazelle’s open love letter to Classic Hollywood. While I think it would be hard to say that La La Land has broken new ground in terms of storytelling, this movie is a fine example of how style can reshape and enliven even the simplest of subject matter. Utilizing fluid, sweeping camerawork, cinematographer Linus Sandgren goes some way towards wreathing La La Land in a sumptuous, dream-like atmosphere. The film beautifully feels like it is set in an otherworld; one where the 1940s and the modern day intermingle seamlessly. From its opening minutes onwards, La La Land is a testament to an age of moviemaking – and to an even greater extent American history – that has come and gone.
Like his previous, critically-acclaimed film, Whiplash, Chazelle places a great deal of emphasis on music in La La Land. The film’s score, composed by Justin Hurwitz, is a lush and romantic one. Its repeated melodies and motifs linger, sometimes hauntingly, in the memory and complicate the on-screen intangibility in no small measure. While some compositions, particularly the film’s opening number, “Another Day in the Sun,” may make one feel as though they have stepped into the midst of the most saccharine of musicals, the musical numbers in La La Land never remain a main focus.
If one was to look for any real criticism in La La Land it would be that the story it has to tell is one which has been told countless times through the years. But, the presentation of the most familiar of tales is enough to make this movie worth careful examination. This character study is compelling, deeply moving, and mesmerizing. In a word: beautiful.