DAMIEN Chazelle loves jazz and his passion is infectious.
A self-appointed champion of the style with his films Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009) and Whiplash (2014), he likes to remind us of these smooth tunes.
He continues to spread the good word with the delightful La La Land.
A year after aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and cool cat jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) are involved in a minor road rage exchange of horn honking and middle finger pulling, their paths cross again.
They eventually become romantically involved after declaring in a lamp pole swinging, sunset backdrop tap dancing number that they can’t stand each other.
However, Mia’s ambitions to be a successful actor and Sebastian’s to be a steadily employed pianist in a dying genre of music demonstrate that their paths may never always parallel.
La La Land’s story is familiar; the cliches are there but the presentation is dazzling, with enthusiastic performances and dancing from the actors and a penchant for stunning sunsets and cute romantic moments.
The fluffy first half, inspired by the 1950s era of classic musicals, is a pure delight, with Chazelle emulating the distinct style and capturing the long-gone spirit and energy of the genre with his rose-tinted lens.
That rose tinting slowly dulls, though, with harsh realities setting in and a few tear jerking moments offering substance to a so far stylish affair.
Releasing this during Oscar season seems like a no-brainer; the Academy laps up these kinds of enthusiastic love letters to the golden age of cinema, but it is the performances by the leads and their chemistry that take this above and beyond “Oscar bait”.THE ESSENTIALS
La La Land (M)
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie DeWitt
Review by Julian Wright
In cinemas December 26