Blithe Spirit – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Judi Dench Directed by Edward Hall. Written by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft. Based on the play by Noel Coward. Length: 95mins

In the latest film adaption of Noel Cowards play Edward Hall brings the famous comedy to life in an explosion of colour and famous faces. The story follows Charles Condomine, a writer struggling with writers block who hires a spiritualist medium to hold a seance in the hope to inspire his writing. When Madame Arcati accidentally summons the spirit of Charles’ deceased first wife, we are presented with an increasingly complex love triangle between himself, his first love and his current wife of 5 years.

As a play, Blithe Spirit (which was first seen in 1941 in the West End) proved to be a phenomenon. It drew massive audiences and created a long-run record for a non-musical stage play in the West End at the time and was soon presented all across America. In 1945 the story found it’s way to the big screen with Rex Harrison starring as Charles Condomine. In theory, this fresh take should have been able to use the pull of a genius original text with a decent budget, big names and advanced technology to reignite laughter across the masses in one of the more difficult years in recent times. In reality, the film missed it’s cinema release and headed straight to streaming services which, in hindsight, I think was probably best for this film as it totally missed the mark. 

It’s an aesthetically pleasing production. The location, sets, costume and colour palette all bring a real vibrancy and help lift the elements that some might struggle to get behind, creating it’s vintage feel while keeping the energy high, though you could argue that these aspects were in place as more of a distraction from the underwhelming story. With a cast of such big names you would only expect the highest quality performances. Unfortunately the approach to the film feels very much like a basic attempt at ‘bringing the play to life’ which just didn’t work for me. While the actors all give solid performances it is very dramatised and a bit silly.

I would give this adaption a miss, the play however, I would go to see. It takes truly brilliant writers to adapt such classic writing that is, arguably, timeless and rejuvenate it for a modern audience. In this situation they should have just left it alone. While it’s short run time feels perfect for an easy afternoon watch, the jarring nature of the script means that at times it feels stretched. The plot is altered slightly but offers no new perspective, focus or meaning. It’s just a film for the sake of it that included most of the comedy in it’s trailer.

Sabrina (1954) – Review

Rating: U Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and John Williams Directed by Billy Wilder Written by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman and Samuel Taylor Length: 113mins

Sabrina is a somewhat archetypal romantic comedy. It tells the story of a young girl, the daughter of a chauffeur who has eyes for the youngest son of her fathers employer. While growing up on the extravagant grounds of the Larrabee family home, Sabrina (Hepburn) longs to gain the attention of  David Larrabee (Holden); the resident wild child and polar opposite of his older brother, Linus (Bogart), who’s focus is purely on maintaining and expanding the family business empire. Sabrina is sent to cookery school in Paris in the hopes that she’ll forget David, but returns an elegant young woman with the ability to turn heads and capture the attention she’s so longed for.

It is impossible to comment on this film without discussing the cast. Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart  are nothing short of phenomenal. Their characters are so wonderfully authentic, drifting through their story and switching between the more serious moments to the more comical  so smoothly. Holden’s portrayal of David matches up to his co-stars just as well, with the only slight blip being the staff at the Larrabee house were slightly heightened which distracts from the more naturalistic telling of the story.

One of the more understated wonders of this film is the script; based upon the play ‘Sabrina Fair’ written by Samuel Taylor in 1953 and adapted for screen by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman. While eloquently telling the story there is a brilliant amount of dry humour – one liners woven into the script that I hadn’t noticed when watching the film a few years ago, it’s brilliantly funny without the actors making the humour loud or extravagant. A feat that, to me, shows how deeply Wilder trusted both his material and his actors to tell the story and allow the dialogue to land with its audiences. 

On the surface, I’m not sure it’s even possible to mix the likes of Billy Wilder, it’s cast and this script without creating a timeless classic. Everything about it is so watchable. I highly recommend ‘Sabrina’, especially if you would usually write off black and white films; this was the first film I ever saw that wasn’t in colour and it really changed my mind. I had a completely unfounded hesitancy to watch B+W films because I thought I would get bored – if anything, they have to do more to keep a modern audiences attention and in my experience, they do just that!

I would also just add that although this is certified ‘U’ – one of the early scenes is an attempted suicide and, although nothing shocking or graphic it’s worth bearing in mind if you are watching with younger children. 

The Holiday – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black and Rufus Sewell Directed by Nancy Meyers Written by Nancy Meyers  Length: 136mins

In 2006 Nancy Meyers, who previously directed What Women Want,  gave us ‘The Holiday’. Another light-hearted romantic comedy, telling the story of four people who are all dissatisfied with elements of their lives until some timely choices lead to a clash of lives which changes each of them for the better during the Christmas holidays. Amanda (Diaz), a movie-trailer maker from Los Angeles, breaks up with her cheating boyfriend (Ed Burns) and is obsessed with the fact that she can’t cry — and finds herself in need of a break. Over in London, Iris (Winslet) needs a break from old flame Jasper and his new engagement. So, after a very brief internet interaction, Amanda ends up in Iris’ picturesque cottage in Surrey, while the latter sets off for Amanda’s Beverly Hills mansion.

Though the plot isn’t particularly complex it is comfortable to watch. We see the issues for our two leading ladies laid out before us and can totally understand the need to escape and take some time for themselves. While the idea of a house and car swap being simple enough to organise in one evening ready to catch flights the following day is somewhat unbelievable, we as an audience are happily swept away with the romance and excitement of watching these women take control of their situation and find something fresh. What makes this film particularly interesting is that unlike most ‘Christmas’ movies, it encourages it’s viewer to take time for themselves, not just others. It highlights self care as a priority in a season that, quite rightly so, often focusses on kindness towards other people and reminds us that we need to look after ourselves as well as others.

What keeps this film moving is the multiple storylines. The main two, clearly between Amanda and Graham; the tug between a whirlwind romance and her high powered job and Iris trying to move past her feelings for Jasper. But throw in two children who have experienced loss at such a young age, a happy go lucky film composer who thinks he’s punching above his weight and a retired screenwriter and suddenly you have some layers that weave so wonderfully together. Whose arc the audience cares about more shifts depending on their own situation and experiences, it’s very clever really, it allows the film to remain relevant to it’s audiences over the years on one level, while continually giving that warm festive feel that brings it’s audiences back to re-watch year after year.

The Holiday is an appealing escapist rom-com that is actually about escaping one’s reality, a film where the core message is for women to learn to love themselves, with an added bonus of romantic happy endings for all. It’s a modern staple of the festive period, it’s familiar and easy to watch but with the opportunity to pull more from the underlying themes if you so chose. 

Notting Hill – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnery, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers and Hugh Bonneville Directed by Roger Michell Written by Richard Curtis Length: 124mins

Notting Hill, starring a phenomenal cast head up by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, introduces us to William Thacker (Grant). He owns a relatively unsuccessful travel book shop in Notting Hill; divorced and living in his ex marital home with his wacky tenant he is seemingly content to just bumble through life. That is until Hollywood Actress Anna Scott walks into his bookshop and subsequently his life. What follows is a love story with ups and downs, laced with good humour and undeniable charm.

Notting Hill is somewhat of an archetypal love story, it’s a fairly basic formula but it satisfies the hopes and expectations of it’s audience. Richard Curtis’ script is full of meet cutes, moments, disappointment and hope whilst being skilfully dispersed with brilliantly witty humour. I found the array of characters a really interesting element in this film, it feels like Curtis has pulled out his favourite stereotypes, fleshed them out a bit and enjoyed creating a world that they could all wander in and out of. The different characters do work for the story and definitely help with the humour; in particular Rhys Ifans as Spike and Emma Chambers as Honey but it’s the inclusion of characters like Bernie (Bonneville), Bella (McKee) and Max (McInnery) that captured my attention. While considering the peripheral characters it’s easy to be distracted by the loud presence of Spike and the kookie quirks of Honey; but having contrasting characters that seem very normal with very normal lives and situations alerted me to something a little deeper that Curtis was bringing attention to.

The whole film is about us and them. The audience likely to relate to William; a normal guy. He works a ‘normal’ job, has to clear up after his ridiculous housemate and spends time with his friends. Our leading lady is this gorgeous, glamorous super star. We see this life that very few people actually understand the pressures of and it grabs our attention when the two are thrown together in this quirky little story. Honey’s birthday meal is an integral piece of the film, we see the majority of our characters volunteering what makes them the saddest act at the table all for the last brownie. As we jump around the table learning a bit more about each character, we see a group of people, sitting around a table as we all have, sharing vulnerable parts of their lives. Whether people notice it or not, Curtis pulls down the barrier between us and them. A lesson that we don’t know what is going on with other people and accepting that although the struggles are very different, that everyone faces them at some point. 

The soundtrack is something that stood out while watching this film for what must be the hundredth time. This time I became aware that the music gives a real running commentary of the emotion of our focal pair. The lyrics of each song explain everything that we’re watching and it is arguably a bit sloppy. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I can’t help but think that more subtle choice might allow the audience to experience the action for themselves rather than being steered to how they should be feeling with a blast of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.

In his role as William Thacker we see Hugh Grant as his perfected ‘awkward, witty, romantic lead’ and the truth is that he’s just brilliant at that role. It’s no wonder we’ve seen him take on so many similar roles in his career. Simply, he’s one of very few people that could do that part justice. Roberts is just sensational. She really seems to shine in her role as Anna, each scene seems to reveal layers of her work which ties together during that famous moment where she’s “just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”.

This movie is bright. It’s full of wit, intelligence and charm. It’s such an easy watch and if you haven’t seen it yet, I really recommend that you give it a go. It’s a classic feel good movie that oozes romance. Arguably one of the best movies ever made in the genre of romantic comedy, thanks to the incredible performances, flawless writing and wonderful direction.

Dick Johnson is Dead – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Dick Johnson, Kirsten Johnson
Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Written by Kirsten Johnson and Nels Bangerter
Length: 89mins

Released by Netflix in 2020, but drawing from a long and loving relationship between Kirsten Johnson and her father, Richard, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ proudly seeks to tackle the one area of life that is so often neglected – death. The first documentary we’ve ever reviewed on this site, the film still uses elements of fiction within the story that it tells, as the director, Kirsten herself, frequently utilises practical and special effects to create scenarios that ultimately end in her father’s untimely demise. Despite the morbid tone to the synopsis that accompanies this documentary, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ is perhaps one of the greatest celebrations of life brought to the screen this year.

In the years prior to Dick Johnson’s 86th birthday, his daughter directed a film that seems to work not only as a documentation of her father’s life as it becomes corrupted by alzheimers, but also an attempt to visually show the uncertainty and struggles that are brought on people when someone they love is diagnosed with the illness. As the story progresses, we begin to learn to a greater extent how much the disease has affected the Johnson’s lives, and this documentary almost feels as if it’s the result of understanding that your family will not always be there for you in the same way they once were. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ seeks to combat this issue with film itself. Being an acclaimed filmmaker, Kirsten Johnson clearly understands the power of the art form, and in her latest release, utilises the great potential that it has to mimic reality. She may not always have her father, but she will always be able to remember their time together through this film.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of films that are created in dedication to someone that was loved by others, or someone who did something great for someone else, but where ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ truly shines is in the frequent change between reality and fantasy. To fantasise about something is often considered a positive instinct, but when you begin to make your fantasy a reality, and it comes in the form of acting out the death of someone who you fear you may soon lose, the whole idea comes across as slightly insensitive and cruel. To define the documentary in this way, however, would be to completely miss the point of the whole story. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ boasts such a bold title because it’s a celebration of life rather than a mockery of it. Dick Johnson lives as a charming and funny man, so why can’t he die in such a way? Furthermore, to look death in the face and laugh with the people you love takes the edge off of something that will one day happen to all of us, and in ‘Dick Johnson is Dead,’ both Kirsten and Dick choose to spend their time celebrating the life they have together, rather than worry about the one that they one day won’t. 

All in all, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ focuses on some fairly heavy topics. It’s not a film that will one day have a happy ending, and for many the story will hit close to home. But these aren’t reasons to avoid watching it, and are instead things that will only allow you to greater connect with and appreciate the storytelling that is going on here. I would recommend the documentary to anyone, and I believe it provides a fresh perspective on the entire film genre.

Yesterday – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis
Length: 116mins

In Danny Boyle’s 2019 musical comedy Himesh Patel plays Jack, a very normal guy from Lowestoft with big dreams of making it as a singer-songwriter. On evenings and weekends he plays small gigs arranged by his biggest fan and make shift manager, Ellie (Lily James) who has believed in him since hearing his rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ when they were both still in school.But then one night, at the same moment that Jack loses consciousness due to a road accident, a gigantic electrical storm hits earth and, after a brief power cut, the unimaginable happened – The Beatles are erased from history. Jack realises that he is the only person with any memory of the band and that he is the only one who remembers the Beatles songs; thus begins the journey to see if he can pass them off as his own.

An ambitious storyline to say the least, but Curtis and Barth attacked their wonderfully kookie idea and managed to create something truly unique and uplifting. Himesh Patel steps confidently into his role as the classic Richard Curtis ‘lovably hopeless’ character, though some Brits might know Patel from his role in Eastenders, the fact that he was relatively unknown was one of the elements that attracted Danny Boyle to him during casting. Lily James is just as charming as ever, the likeable force that she brings into any of her projects just makes this film more well rounded. Her character is the most relatable, arguably the most ‘normal, in the story, surrounded by either heightened characters like Rocky or Jacks parents yet left on the sidelines for the big leap to stardom and keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

The way that they made this bizarre story work is through having the actors play it really straight, allowing the comedy to flow out of the train of ridiculous circumstances and not overly pushing the funny moments. Boyle really managed to create a world where Jack believes his plan will work, a situation where the audience empathises with the normality of the focal characters and find themselves rooting for their successes.

There was always going to be some slight concern when you hear that anyone other than The Beatles is performing their songs, but Patel brings a really nice balance of his own voice and interpretation of the stories being told through them with the familiarity of the famous music. The way the songs are woven into the story and paced throughout the film helps with the progression of the timeline. Danny Boyle has commented while being interviewed that Himesh Patel sang Yesterday in one of his auditions and was one of the few actors who managed to connect with the song on a level that made it not sound like karaoke.

A film made purely for entertainment and it so committed to it’s storyline is such a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong I love a film with all sorts of underlying themes and questions but this film is just brilliantly likeable. It’s a real family film with a whole range of humour, jam packed with wonderful songs in amongst a fully unrealistic, yet entertaining story. There’s very little with which to find in fault Yesterday, it’s absolutely my go to feel good film.

Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Rating: 12A
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens and Pierce Brosnan
Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Directed by David Dobkin
Length: 123mins

A Netflix release in the height of lockdown amidst Covid:19 fears and concerns, this film carries so much joy and silliness that helps to focus on positives amongst worrying times. Though at first glance it may look like a classic Will Ferrell comedy, surprisingly, it carries some moving moments; these moving moments intertwined with catchy songs, amusing accents, magical Elves and so much more…

Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) has always dreamed of winning the Eurovision Song Contest, with his doe-eyed childhood friend and not quite sweetheart, Sigrit (McAdams). Their band, Fire Saga, was selected at random to compete in the contest, representing their beloved Iceland. The drama that follows the pair is mostly nonsensical, but the story holds its own and keeps moving with the fun of outrageous ‘Eurovision-eque’ songs and dance routines paced throughout the film.

One of the most brilliant elements of this film is that it feels like Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele sat down to write the script and every possible hilarious idea that popped into their heads they wrote down and found a place for it to fit. There is a lot of detail in every scene, nothing is there to just connect the story and with each watch I found myself noticing more intricate choices.

What is truly lovely about this film is that amongst all of the busy, vibrant scenes are really well written characters with whom the audience can connect. Seen by most peripheral characters in the film as ‘freaks’, the performances of the lead pair are full of brilliant choices which allow the characters to feel authentic, if a little ‘out there’. Whilst some of the action is extreme, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching actors perform these characters, you are allowed into their sheltered world which encourages empathy. It almost creeps up on you as you enjoy the comedy and the silliness, then you’re hit with a moment that you can relate to in some way. With themes of perseverance, friendship and chasing your dreams there is something for everyone to take away.

This film isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it might just lift your spirits. It’s an easy, entertaining watch with positive messages of inclusivity and finding what is important to you. It is worth warning, however, that you will most likely find yourself singing some of Fire Saga’s songs and they are not easy to get out of your head! If you need a bit of a release, a break from the worries of today, I suggest you give it a watch. Let yourself fall into silliness and have a good laugh.

Crazy, Stupid, Love – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore and Kevin Bacon
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Written by Dan Fogelman
Length: 118mins

In 2011 Glenn Ficarra and John Requa teamed up to create the three strand multi-generational romantic comedy ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. The lighthearted story follows Cal (Carell) and Emily (Moore) as they negotiate issues in their marriage, serial ‘player’ Jacob (Gosling) as he meets his match in Hannah (Stone) as well as Cal and Emily’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) as he falls in love with his babysitter who, in turn, has her sights on another…

While not a particularly deep or powerful plot, what holds the audiences attention is the mix of all of the storylines. Dan Fogelman created a story that brilliantly captures all these different characters; allowing them their own lives and issues while cleverly connecting them. The only element of the story that I found to be a bit ‘too much’ was that of Jessica – the baby sitter. Though Analeigh Tipton does a good job I find her character so uncomfortable to watch. This, of course, could be fully intentional; her character is an awkward teenager who makes questionable choices but for me it detracts slightly from the other elements of the plot and feels like an unnecessary push at some extra comedy.

It’s been proven that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are a fantastic pairing; brilliant chemistry and the ability to provide deep, moving moments while bouncing off each other. The same has to be said for their roles in this film which are enhanced by the directors willingness to allow the pair to improvise some of the warmest, most authentic moments of the film. Steve Carell also side steps from his usual goofy comedic style and settles into ‘socially awkward dad mode’; not drastically different but the result is a character that triggers the empathy of the audiences and is a wonderful opposite to Goslings character making their relationship in the film both hilarious and endearing.

One of the interesting elements in this film, and what makes it stand out from other romantic comedies, is the balance of the two genres. Although it stars some powerhouse women, it’s main focus is on the male characters which is unusual in itself for this sort of film. It pushes a smooth blend of modern comic genres with a somewhat unexpected undercurrent of more dark, difficult emotions – all while sincerely contemplating the idea of soul mates and true love vs the limits of romanticism which is typically avoided in most romantic storylines.

This is not a perfect film and yet I can’t help but love it, I would suggest it’s one of the most brilliantly formed romantic comedies. It appeals to more than just teenage girls and has a real feeling of authenticity, lightly touching on some very real issues that some couples may face alongside a good splash of humour. More than anything it’s just an entertaining watch and I would highly recommend it.

Hot Fuzz – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine and Bill Bailey
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Length: 121mins

In 2004, British director Edgar Wright released his comedic homage to the zombie genre in the form of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ a brilliant and clever film that utilised the stereotypical tropes of the genre to create a film that felt completely unique. This would be the start of a three-part series of films that would each take on their own respective genre in a comedic manner, and would feature a recurring all-star cast led by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Concluded in 2013, the so-called ‘Cornetto’ trilogy (named after the recurring appearance of the ice cream in each film, with three different flavours to match the three different genres) was rounded up by ‘Worlds End,’ a take on the world of sci-fi and aliens. However, I think that the strongest of the trilogy was made in 2007, when Wright turned his attention towards the action genre, and headed to Somerset to create his ode to the blockbusters of ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys 2.’

After over-successful London Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is sent to enforce the law in the idyllic rural village of Sandford – hidden amongst the hundreds of other communities just like it – he begins to find that all is not what it seems, and after taking the Chief Inspector’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) under his wing, Angel begins to believe that a series of grisly accidents may not be entirely so coincidental.

To say that Wright is thorough with details when it comes to designing his films would be an understatement. Within the script, the almost constant moments of humour are often accentuated by the smallest of details that may have alluded to future scenes in the earlier moments of the film. Not a line is wasted, and as a result, a moment of dialogue from the story’s beginning will only feature further along down the line. This extreme approach to script writing is what sets Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote the script) apart from most, as their clever understanding of what adds humour to a scene is perfectly executed throughout the entire 121 minutes.

Wright isn’t only obsessive about recurring and subtle ideas in the script that may only be caught after repeat viewings, but also within the set and sound design. Moments such as Butterman’s peak of intrigue after Angel reveals that he’s been stabbed before is punctuated by a distant ‘ca-ching’ sound of a till opening somewhere within the pub, as well a burst of laughter from a pub-goer after Angel describes it as “the single most painful experience of his life,” are the kind of moments that could be easily mistaken for simple background noise, but are actually the work of meticulous sound design at the hands of a director who understands that if he’s creating a comedy, then he can use all areas of film form to add humour to a scene.

The fanatical use of noise doesn’t just stop at the sound design. Wright’s ideas towards musical accompaniment and the action of a scene are perhaps best displayed in his later work, ‘Baby Driver’ from 2017, where not a moment of action isn’t to the beat of a song, but ‘Hot Fuzz,’ still showcases some brilliant use of music. From Adam Ant’s ‘Goody Two Shoes’ accompanying the over-enthusiastic Angel in his police training, to Dire Strait’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ accompanying a scene of tragedy after a rendition of the titular play is performed. Being aware of the relationship between sound and action is what allows Edgar Wright to create moments that flow to a beat without the audience perhaps even realising.

Aside from the later action of the film, Wright perfectly captures the life of so many small villages dotted throughout the English countryside. From the only after work activity being the Pub, to the frequent reiteration of “everybody knows everybody round here,” anyone who’s spent time in such a place will know that ‘Hot Fuzz’ perfectly depicts the repetitious and slow lifestyle of any English village. Wright himself grew up in Wells, Somerset, where ‘Hot Fuzz’ was actually filmed, and was quoted as saying “I love it but I also want to trash it.”

‘Hot Fuzz’ is one of those films that you can stick on anytime, anywhere and with anyone, and not only laugh out loud, but get something new from it every time. Edgar Wright displays his talents excellently in this film and I look forward to the release of his new film, ‘Last Night in Soho,’ sometime in the near future.

La La Land – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K Simmons
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Written by Damien Chazelle
Length: 128mins

In 2016 Damien Chazelle brought the highly anticipated ‘old Hollywood’ style musical, La La Land, to the big screen. The film itself seems to have split audiences into passionate opinions of ‘love it or hate it’ and for that response in itself I think its worthy of comment. I have found it so interesting to enter into conversations with people who disagree with my own views; I would confidently say that this is one of my absolute favourite films.

Our story follows two artists in Hollywood – Sebastian, a hot headed but passionate pianist with a deep love for Jazz music and Mia, an actress, taking on the industry one audition, one rejection at a time. Their paths cross a couple of times before their conjoined story begins, but what seems to be key is that they are connected – both young people, with big, possibly unrealistic dreams. This story has a very raw feel, assisted of course by the cinematography and directorial choices, our main characters have such a normal feel about them. I find both Mia and Sebastian very easy to relate to, sharing explicit moments of vulnerability; weakness, frustration and emotion. All performed beautifully by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, both of whom received high accolades for their work including multiple nominations and awards. I feel that what this film has done so brilliantly is create something that people relate to. Mia and Sebastian express so much of human nature making it almost impossible to not connect with the characters on some level. This makes me question the impact that this level of empathy instills within it’s audience, perhaps some dislike the outcome of the story because choices made aren’t the ones they would have made? Maybe not, but it’s an interesting idea to consider.

In comparison to one of Chazelle’s previous hits, ‘Whiplash’, La La Land was an opportunity to show a whole different side to his vision and creativity. Where Whiplash is said to have been a very ‘tight’ production – heavily relying on editing with lots of shots, focussed on exact, predestined moments. La La Land was a much more ‘free’ production, relying on less shots than Whiplash but allowing time for rehearsal and regular retakes (to assist in the practicalities of syncing actors to playback etc…) I understand that there was plenty of opportunity for improvisation within the script – though the visuals were predesigned the key relationship needed a real casual essence as its driving force and so the relaxed atmosphere of two professionals, totally in character, improvising gave new layers of truth while keeping the relationship and story telling light. In considering the visual presentation on a whole you cannot miss the sheer attention to detail. Everything is so deliberate from the colour schemes, camera angles to moments of quiet and a small glance.

I’m not sure you can discuss La La Land without commenting on the music, another element that divides people. I for one was slightly confused at some peoples outrage at the use of seemingly ‘normal’ vocals. These vocals, though of an extremely high standard, rarely sound polished or like recording artists and perhaps it’s just not to some peoples taste, but I feel that, firstly; it was a deliberate choice and therefore was selected to allow for the tone of the overall story and, secondly; it still sounds great, it just doesn’t necessarily fit with the framework of modern day ‘moive-musicals’. For me, the music and the lyrics provide extra layers to the storytelling, layers that are perhaps unreachable through alternative methods. I feel like Justin Hurwitz, the films composer, has outdone himself. In the films that he’s worked on I always find myself paying attention to the music, not as a distraction, rather as another thread of the canvas so to speak. As someone without much musical knowledge I wasn’t sure i’d ever really have a ‘favourite’ composer, but I certainly do admire and respect Hurwitz’s ability to tell story through music. Each piece of music, each song is so deliberate and powerful.

This film is truly a piece of art. By nature it wont be loved and adored by everyone, but it will speak to people in different ways. I encourage you to look at this film through a slightly different lens than just ‘popping something on the tv’. Consider the films intentions, the messages hiding in each detail, in each lyric. It might teach you something about yourself or encourage something in you that you had pushed aside.

“Here’s to the fools who dream”