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La La Land


Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J K Simmons, John Legend, Keith Harris, Tom Everett Scott

Director: Damien Chazelle

Much has been made of this rather slow romantic musical, although, for all its technical expertise, it seems unlikely to herald a return to the genre.

An aspiring actress, Mia (Stone), working as a waitress, and a jazz pianist, Sebastian (Gosling), stuck playing jingles in a restaurant (run by the invaluable Simmons) gradually strike up a romance and eventually move in together. But their relationship hits problems when both find steady work, his taking him a country-wide tour with a 'modern' jazz band.

The overlong results can't hold a candle to the classic Hollywood musicals - or even a minor MGM musical, such as I Love Melvin - but this gentle entry does have a certain delicate charm all its own, provided in part by a string of atmospheric LA locations.

The movie takes off with a bang, with drivers in a freeway jam breaking into an impromptu (and smartly choreographed) dance session (though it seems to me that something similar has already been seen in one of the 'Step Up' films).

There are one or two haunting little tunes thereafter, notably City of Stars, and the film, which has hit the doldrums, springs to life again in a fizzy climactic dance sequence that leads to the bitter-sweet finale.

Neither Stone nor Gosling can really sing - 60 years ago both might have been dubbed, like poor Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain and Ava Gardner in Show Boat - but their dancing is elegantly adequate and Gosling's finger-work on the keyboard nothing short of brilliant; while some of the jazz played by genuine musicians is agreeably hot.

All in all, despite its weaknesses, this scores as the most pleasant and well-structured of minor diversions.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by efilm.
127 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 07 Jan 2017