Film critic Robyn Kemp reviews the film that everyone is talking about; Damien Chazelle’s love-letter to Hollywood and the art of cinema

Written by Robyn Kemp
Last updated

I went with high hopes and big expectations for La La Land. It has been the film everyone has been talking about for the past few months. The high level of praise it has been receiving – including a now record-breaking 7 Golden Globes – made it a possibility that it would not reach this extreme level of admiration and that it would be a let down; it wasn’t. Not only were the characters entirely charming, the music elegant and sophisticated, but also the visuals could be said to be a form of high art. This musical brings you back to an old school MGM Musical; full of truly magical moments of euphoria and romance.

The opening starts as the film means to go on with bright colourful images as we see the city come to life through song and dance, it’s not a cheesy musical, as the lyrics are realistic and optimistic but the background plot grounds the film within reality. There are many French new-wave elements to the film, but it also has a classic Hollywood style that again makes sure this musical is not simply just a musical. The way the film has been constructed is very creative and artistic, making it far more indie than most musicals. Placing it in a similar league to Moulin Rouge! and Singin’ In The Rain. The film itself has new modern sense of character but with vintage and retro style.

The main pull of the film is the charming relationship between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The chemistry and flow between the two make the romance very raw and real, it is hopelessly romantic and raw, with two of our most effortlessly charismatic talents bouncing off each other (and trying to out-do each other) all the while doing their best Fred and Ginger impression. It’s incredibly affecting and impressive stuff. The performance of both actors makes it easy to fall in love with them and romanticizes the relationship. The glances between characters and the exceptionally beautiful sequence in the observatory shows this film is full of charisma and charm.

It is hopelessly romantic and raw, with two of our most effortlessly charismatic talents bouncing off each other

As with Whiplash, Damien Chazelle has ensured the music throughout the film fits perfectly and is a spectacle of its own, the key song ‘City of Stars’ is incredibly haunting and remains an earworm, stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Although perhaps the most notable song is Mia’s audition song (The Fools Who Dream), this being the moment when the film goes from being beautiful to elegantly heart breaking and emotional. It is definitely my favourite moment of the film, and truly captures the hopes and dreams of the characters.
Stone in particular shines brightly throughout, she’s always been a powerhouse of charisma and star-power, but here Chazelle has her firing on all cylinders and her Mia is indeed, all raw ambition and star-addled gazer. Stone’s legacy-defining performance is also her most humanising performance. You will laugh with her, you will cry with her and oh, you will sing with her.


Verdict:  La La Land is bold, bright and beautiful. It’s got great charm, with a stunning look, and the dream-like sequences really do have a magical air to them. A divisive film, inherently, but increasingly looking to be a film that will define our cinematic age, whether we like it or not.