Review: La La Land

Leon Nock offers his first impressions of La La Land, a new movie with a reasonable sprinkling of jazz, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

It’s a given that jazz fans are not exactly a target audience for Hollywood producers looking for subject matter so it’s good to be able to give you the heads up on a new movie – it will be released in February 2017 – that contains a reasonable sprinkling of jazz. JJ readers who live in the London area and are also film buffs may well have caught La La Land, as I did, when it was screened at the London Film Festival in October, 2016, but if you missed it or have never heard of it you may like to know a little about it. The first positive is that it was directed by Damian Chazelle who directed Whiplash, arguably the most recent non-biographical film with a jazz content. Having said that, it’s tricky to decide if it’s a homage to or a send-up of the movie musicals of the "golden age."

Here’s a once-over-lightly of the pre-title sequence: We open on the L.A. freeway. Total gridlock. Ryan Gosling inches past Emma Stone in an adjacent lane, she gives him the finger. That’s all, folks. They’re gone but we know we’ll meet them again cause they’re the stars. Meanwhile back at the gridlock we close in on a single car. A young girl is driving. After a beat she begins to sing, for no discernible reason, slowly at first then faster. She leaves the car and begins to dance through the gridlock. The best you can say about this is that it’s irresponsible to abandon a car in that situation but before you can say "Busby Berkeley" drivers - young, healthy, clean, well-dressed - are jumping out of cars and singing and dancing in perfect sync with a precision that makes the Count Basie band look like amateur night.

We Never See Them Again And The Sequence Has Nothing To Do With The Rest Of The Film.

We then get back to the two leads. She: a wannabe actress dealing them off the arm to make a buck. He: a jazz pianist with eyes to own his own Birdland meanwhile playing with Mickey Mouse outfits. They meet, sing, dance, everything from tap to waltz and they do so like Fred and Ginger. Eventually both achieve their goals and lose each other. This is where the bulk of the jazz comes in when Gosling plays jazz piano nightly with some tasty musos in his own club. It may best be described as an out-an-out musical but in my opinion there’s sufficient jazz to warrant a nod in JJ.

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