Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Aimee Conn, J.K Simmons, John Legend, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe (Rated M 128 min).
The sparkling opening moments of an all-singing all-dancing production number amidst Los Angeles highway gridlock instantly captures your attention and is really only a taste of what is to come. Odds on favourite for Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars is justified.
Nostalgic and dreamy breathing life into the modern musical revived with style. It’s no ‘Grease’ or ‘Footloose’ although elements are there, think homages to 1950s / 60s escapism when actors burst into song or dance at any given moment.
Looking for his big break, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is the musician lamenting the state of the music industry that no longer appreciates classic jazz while working in seedy wine bars to make ends meet. Aspiring actress and playwright, cute as a button Mia (Emma Stone), deep into the magic of old movie stars, attends endless humiliating auditions in between working at a coffee shop on site at the historic Warner Bros back-lot.
The pair inevitably meet, scuffle and fall in love in a series of musical moments with passionate chemistry and expert comic timing from these two brilliant actors in their third film appearance together after Crazy Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).
Sheer cinematic beauty and staging of each scene is expertly captured in a glorious melting pot of technicolor swirl with many landmarks including the brilliant scene recalling classic Rebel Without A Cause (1955) at Giriffith Park and its observatory my favourite among many. Love comes with complications and this cloud nine romance is no different.
With such an upbeat first hour, the slower descent into a compelling but unexpected finale will provoke discussion. Dancing is swift while mostly all original numbers are orchestrated with endearing delight even if most of the vocals are not quite melodious Broadway like precision.
One of my personal movie atrocities, and it’s happened since the birth of motion pictures, is when the hands of an actor do not match up with tinkling the ivories. At least Gosling learned to play the piano for the role, much appreciated Ryan.
Extras are in the hundreds often flitting in and out of shot with a wave and a twirl like a good old musical would do focussing on its main players. Soon to be seen in a musical adaptation of retro gem Valley Girl (1983), I did enjoy the small contribution from amazing Jessica Rothe as Alexis, while Grammy award winner John Legend and Hollywood stalwart J.K Simmons make no end of an impression.
An unforgettable experience all round for movie lovers or anyone who enjoys unique storytelling. Must-see at all costs on the big screen.
Shane A. Bassett