Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
Last night, Damien Chazelle‘s musical romance La La Land premiered at the Venice Film Festival on the other side of the world. The film is one of my most anticipated films of the year, so I couldn’t be happier to hear all the positive buzz coming from the premiere.
The first La La Land reviews reaffirm what we’ve observed from the trailers, calling the film a loyal homage to classic movie musicals, shot magnificently, and acted superbly by stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone with some astounding original music. However, for all the praise that calls the film audacious, exciting and passionate, some reviews also point out that the film has difficulty balancing the fantastical nature of the musical style with the raw, emotional drama that comes between musical numbers, making the film a little uneven.
Read some the early La La Land reviews have to say after the jump.
Before we dive into the full reviews, here are some quick Twitter reactions:
LA LA LAND is sensational. Jacques Demy for the digital age, Singin' in the Rain for the gap between romance & reality. 1st shot = all-timer
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) August 31, 2016
La La Land is the fizziest, most achingly romantic of movies. Chazelle does for musicals what Tarantino did for guns #Venezia73
— CineVue (@CineVue) August 31, 2016
La La Land: I'm honestly crying with happiness. That film no-one makes any more? Damien Chazelle just made it. #Venezia73
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) August 31, 2016
Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian had some nice things t say, but worries that audiences may need time to get used to the film’s musical style:
It’s an unapologetically romantic homage to classic movie musicals, splashing its poster-paint energy and dream-chasing optimism on the screen. With no little audacity, La La Land seeks its own place somewhere on a continuum between Singin’ in the Rain and Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, with a hint of Alan Parker’s Fame for the opening sequence, in which a bunch of young kids with big dreams, symbolically stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway leading to Los Angeles, get out of their cars and stage a big dance number.
To be honest, this is where an audience might find its tolerance for this picture’s unironic bounce tested, coming as it does right at the top of the show. It takes a little while to get acclimatised, and for the first five minutes, the showtune feel to the musical score might make you feel you’re watching a Broadway adaptation. But very soon I was utterly absorbed by this movie’s simple storytelling verve and the terrific lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who are both excellent – particularly Stone, who has never been better, her huge doe eyes radiating wit and intelligence when they’re not filling with tears.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter praises Damien Chazelle’s homage to classic films but also wonders if younger audiences will be enchanted by the proceedings:
The director’s feel for a classic but, for all intents and purposes, discarded genre format is instinctive and intense; he really knows how to stage and frame dance and lyrical movement, to transition smoothly from conventional to musical scenes, to turn naturalistic settings into alluring fantasy backdrops for set pieces, and to breathe new life into what many would consider cobwebbed cliches.
The director shares his leading man’s preference for bygone styles, and it remains to be seen whether or not the charm and persuasiveness of the film’s look and performances are enough to disarm skeptical young audiences who have rarely, if ever, been exposed to the conventions Chazelle employs so enthusiastically and skillfully.
Geoffrey Macnab at The Independent marvels at the film’s ambitiousness but discusses the film’s unevenness as well: