La La Land is a simple story of boy meets girl and a wink to those bygone days of the MGM musicals that Hollywood produced in the fifties.

Director Damien Chazelle, who brought us the sleeper hit Whiplash (2014) which won a Golden Globe for J.K. Simmons (who also appears in his new film) has delivered a modern musical in the style of an old-fashioned feel good movie with the familiar theme of ‘always follow your dreams.’

The film concentrates on a budding relationship between two players, Mia (Emma Stone) who is a struggling wannabe actress come writer, who works as a Barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros studio lot; and Seb, (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist who dreams of owning his own Jazz Bar / Club, in the hope that he can preserve the fundamental roots and ideals of traditional jazz.

Mia’s life is a never-ending succession of acting auditions that end in failure (although for my money her acting abilities are brilliant and I would have given her a job) and Seb is reduced to playing Christmas jingles in a local bar and performing synthesised music in a corny 80’s tribute band.

Through a series of coincidental meetings, they discover that there is a chemistry which binds them together, plus they both have the same dream of being a success in Hollywood.

All this is played out with recurring song and dance scenes very reminiscent of Pennies from Heaven (1981), where normal movie dialogue is interrupted by an outburst of a catchy song and dance number which has a segue back to normal life.

The phrase “feel good movie” has been used in a variety of rave reviews. This is certainly true of the opening scene which starts off with the camera panning down a line of commuter traffic on a Los Angeles Freeway that turns into a colourful and spectacular 10-minute Flash-Mob singing and dancing routine which will make you smile like an idiot.

The two stars of the film are both excellent. Emma Stone is very endearing and extremely likeable and can hold a tune very well and can also hold her own in the dance numbers.

Ryan Gosling gives another likeable laid-back performance and can really ‘cut a rug’ on the dance floor, which was helped by his younger years working on the Disney Club TV show in America.

His singing voice isn’t the best but he gets away with it in that method used by other non-singers such as Trumpeter Herb Albert, (Who had a number one hit in the 60’s with This Guys in Love With You) and Gene Kelly who both used that talking / come singing style which was easy on the ear.

The musical numbers are extremely well choreographed and have that ‘Singing in the Rain’ and ‘American in Paris’ feel. Apparently Stone and Gosling spent a day with Gene Kelly’s widow to research their musical roles.

The casting of Stone and Gosling was an excellent choice as the two actors obviously have a connection on screen, having appeared together in two previous films, Crazy Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).

It goes without saying that that the plaudits that have been pouring in from critics and fans will no doubt make certain that La La Land goes down in history as one of best modern musicals of all time.

However, here’s the thing. This film could quite easily have gone the other way. It was a big risk making an old-school type musical. But maybe this is reminder that there is more to movies than Superheroes and CGI spectacles and countless remakes and unnecessary reboots.

The film is probably not to everyone’s taste. I have heard of a few instances where people have walked out in the middle of the film, which happened in a screening I was in.

With the huge amount of 5 star ratings there is a tendency to get carried away when reviewing it. There is a slight ‘Emperors New Clothes’ about it and so you have to go with your gut feeling.

For me the first half of the film is very upbeat and has a good pace but the second half does drag in some scenes and is a more sombre affair. I also think the film could have been cut down by at least 20 minutes.

Having said that, I did really like it. I also like the fact that it does pose the question “would you sacrifice love to achieve your dreams?”

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