La La Land

This musical starts with a very exuberant song and dance routine on a jammed freeway slip-road in Los Angeles, which (once you get over your initial shock!) sweeps you along with its colour and vibrancy and you realise it’s not only fun but really well choreographed as the camera swoops amongst the cars. It ends with our two protagonists being introduced – Mia (Emma Stone) an aspiring actress and Seb (Ryan Gosling) an aspiring jazz pianist. Mia is absorbed in her lines and slow to pull away and Seb impatient with her. Somehow you know they are going to meet again.

I know you’re meant to initially dislike Seb, but I was wondering why on earth Mia was intersted in him for a fair while because he’s played so haughtily, but perhaps also because Emma Stone is so convincing as Mia that you are already invested in her character. When they do get together they’re a very complimentary couple. They encourage each other to pursue their goals in life, but these goals come with compromise and there are a couple of scenes that show this in a devastating way: a romantic meal where resentments about reality hit home, for example, and a jazz club montage which will leave you pondering it for ages (I interpreted it as regretful from Seb’s point of view) and underlines that this is a film about Mia and her dreams.

They perhaps use the running-theme one too many times throughout the film, but for the most part it is great fun, colourful and a slap in the face for any grump out there!

4 on 5

Info
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
UK Release: 12th January 2017

Drive

Dive stars Ryan Gosling as a ‘driver’. The pre-titles sequence establish his credentials at his after-hours activity of being a getaway driver, allowing the guys a five minute window to get their stuff done and get in the car. He’s clearly good at it and approaches it with a clear, logical head to avoid being caught, but it’s got to go wrong somewhere along the line, right? Or has it?

Okay, so setup complete, then the credits roll and they’re in a beautifully 70’s nostalgic pink neon style, a bit like the typeface of the film ‘Dirty Dancing’ or the alternative cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ and it obviously can’t avoid reminding you of ‘Taxi Driver’ but it acknowledges this acceptingly.

What follows is like a combination of a game of ‘Driver’ meets a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western. Incredibly simplistic characters and conventional plot as we follow our anti-hero into the world of bad guys and troubled maidens. Ryan Gosling plays the character as the quiet, considered, thinking type and stretches the filmic convention of not saying anything or taking forever to answer to new lengths.

Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play a couple of mobsters (Bernie Rose and Nino) in almost comical fashion. By that I don’t mean that they are funny (not intentionally at least), but that the scenes with them in play like a comedian’s sketch of a tough-guy film. You half expect one of them to look at the screen in an extreme close-up and say something ridiculous like “Nobody calls me a na-na! NOBODY!’ and then have their fake moustache fall off.

Which reminds me that some of the occasional violence is quite graphic (although a particular scene in a lift reminded me of a Dennis Pennis as Mike Strutter scene).

Visually it’s great with some really nice angles, lighting and framing and the action and chase scenes are a joy to watch.

So, it’s an enjoyable and brainless couple of hours at the cinema. Nice to look at and with a good feel about it, but not much upstairs. Just like that poor Miss South Carolina who was asked why so many Americans couldn’t locate their own country on a map and rambled on for minutes without saying anything. (YouTube it!).

3 on 5

Info

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos

UK Release: 13th August 2011