DIRECTED BY: Damien Chazelle
STARRING: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Callie Hernandez, J.K Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Tom Everett Scott, Meagen Fay, Damon Gumpton, Jason Fuchs and Josh Pence
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
Mia is an aspiring actress who serves lattes to film stars in between auditions, while Sebastian is a jazz musician who scrapes by playing at cocktail party gigs in dingy bars. In a city known for destroying hopes and dreams as well as breaking hearts, the two enter a whirlwind romance and push each other to achieve their dreams.
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was my favourite film to come out here in 2015 (UK/Irish release). Hearing that his next film was going to be a modern musical, I was both intrigued and skeptical, mainly skeptical because I’m not the biggest fan of musical films. With the buzz the film has generated stateside plus the fact it swept the categories it was nominated in at the Golden Globes, I’ve still tried to keep my expectations in check. With all that being said, I was thoroughly entertained and completely marvelled by Chazelle’s musical feature.
The film oozes with a dreamy swagger that is reminiscent of the classical Hollywood era, the film’s opening musical number ‘Another Day of Sun’ during a traffic jam on the highway immediately gives you a freshness I haven’t seen on the big screen in quite some time, from the way the camera swoons across the crowd, to the way the whole sequence is cut to make it feel like it’s all done in one take, right down to the way the choreography is handled. While the film is primarily grounded in reality, the musical numbers are handled in a dreamlike state, particularly in the films best sequence (and peak sequence, in my opinion) in which Mia and Sebastian begin floating and dancing amongst the stars in the planetarium. While not a fan of the song (‘A Lovely Night’), I couldn’t help but smile during the choreography between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling during it. Of course, the song that comes up a few times and that I have been whistling constantly since seeing the film yesterday is ‘City of Stars’, which is great and ‘Audition (Fools Who Dream)’ feels like a calling to all of those out there that dare to dream to go out there and achieve it. Whilst the musical choices and choreography land, it helps that the screenplay itself and the performances are also great. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad) is undeniable, the two perfectly bouncing off each other in the dramatic scenes (the first major fight we witness at the apartment) to the more comedic scenes (Mia ribbing Seb at a party where he’s working in an 80’s cover band). Ryan Gosling is terrific as jazz lovin’ musician Sebastian Wilder, someone who appears intense and hard to deal with who dreams one day of owning his own jazz club. Emma Stone here may appear to be the films crown jewel, with her expressive nature perfectly captivated by the lens, especially when bringing that raw emotion to Mia’s musical number ‘Audition (Fools Who Dream)’. On a technical aspect, I really can’t fault any department. Damien Chazelle’s directing is even more impressive here than his work on Whiplash, Justin Hurwit’z score is great, the editing from Tom Cross is outstanding, as is the cinematography by Linus Sandgren and the production/set designs by David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.
While I thought the film was great, some of the musical numbers didn’t land for me (Another Day of Sun, A Lovely Night and Someone In Crowd), just as songs as their own they just didn’t work for me as well as City of Stars for example. As much as the film gets you on a high, for me it came down after the planetarium sequence in which the characters focused on doing their own thing, such as Seb gigging with Keith’s band The Messengers and Mia focusing on her one-woman play So Long, Boulder City. However the film finished strong for me personally with the finale, which is bittersweet, one final dream-like sequence definitely felt heavy handed, though I appreciated what Chazelle was going for and actually went there. The final act for some at my screening felt like a different film entirely and I can see where they’re coming from thinking that.
It’s a film that’s set to be a big winner at the Oscars and with the amount of love, attention to detail and craft that went into it, it will be deserving of whatever it wins. Chazelle has created a terrific followup to Whiplash with this ambitious and absolutely charming musical with two actors on a roll at the minute with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, charming us with characters that can work perfectly fine on their own, but together they are cinematic gold. Prepare to marvel at the choreography, sing-along to the songs, but remember…you cant always get what you want but at a cost, which in turn might put a downer on people’s expectations from the story. 8/10