La La Land

Gareth Thomas By

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Damien Chazelle's film La La Land, although also partly jazz-based, comes as a stark contrast to his previous directorial project, the brutal and intense Whiplash (2014). In essentially what seems a typical boy-meets-girl romantic scenario, La La Land follows the relationship between Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a pianist and jazz traditionalist who wants to open his own bar, and Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring LA actress. This isn't something that is rushed into and comes after the film initially takes some time to establish both characters and their aspirations, which continue to be an important focus throughout. La La Land follows the recent trend of musical films starring actors that aren't typically singers. However, none of this seems to be too much of a problem. The quality of singing in the film isn't disappointing, but don't expect Ryan Gosling to be the next Gene Kelly.

For a film with jazz as one of its main focal points, the music is very simple and somewhat lacking in style. Nevertheless, the songs—subject to a lot of repetition given a running time of just over two hours—are pleasant, catchy, and go will with the film's retro style and dance. Also important is the film's treatment of the genre of jazz music in general. It addresses several points in this respect. For one, it looks at the continuous stylistic developments that are going on under the label of "jazz," and stresses the point that you cannot afford to be a traditionalist if you want to keep the genre alive and relevant. The film also attacks the all too familiar "smooth jazz/cocktail party/Kenny G-esque" stereotype that has clung to jazz. To quote the film, jazz is "conflict and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting!"

As a Hollywood blockbuster, a lot of jazz content is not expected of La La Land. Instead, it achieves this to a degree whilst appealing to a larger audience as an enjoyable and very visually attractive film.



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