I first heard whispers about La La Land, the big screen musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, long before any official trailers had started to seep across the internet.
Film critics whose podcasts I follow and whose reviews I devour starting mentioning a movie that had only been shown in select private screenings to a very special few.
They mentioned Oscar buzz was already starting to build, but that wasn’t the compelling piece of the puzzle. It was the reports of what was happening inside the theatres.
Grown, stoic men weeping in their seats because they were so moved. Critics gushing that Emma Stone’s performance was the most magical thing they had ever seen. Entire audiences breaking into dance once the credits rolled.
It all seemed to good to be true, which is when a few ardent movie lovers started to get a little nervous.
After all, anything built up that much is destined to fall.
In fact, one critic on Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast went as far as to be everyone to please stop talking about La La Land, because the hype was getting too much and it was destined to ruin the best movie of the year.
Watch: All the mistakes in movies you never noticed. Post continues after video.
I could see his point. But then I saw and I loved. And I’ve told everybody I’ve ever met about it.
Sorry, Emma and Ryan.
La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is an original, modern day musical set among the bright lights of Los Angeles. In fact, just the fact that it’s an original film competing in a sea of reboots, sequels and prequels already puts it ahead of the pack.
The movie follows Sebastian (Gosling), a struggling jazz musician who dreams of opening his own club. Mia (Stone) is a small-town girl and aspiring actress, working as a barista while on a movie lot, unsuccessfully auditioning for TV roles.
You can probably guess what happens next. They meet. They banter. They dance. And then they fall in love.
The plot would be paint-by-numbers if it wasn’t for the captivating original score, flawless cinematography and the fact it has taken everything we love about old-school movie musicals and rebooted it for a modern audience.
Mia and Sebastian don’t just fall in love after one song; their passion is a slow burn that escalates into a full-blown affair and is then stacked up against some real life challenges.
The Mia character is not a doe-eyed lass waiting to be swept up into the arms of the first man who comes along and can hold a tune. She’s got real problems going on. (Post continues after gallery.)
Her dreams of becoming an actress are right up there with her eagerness to fall in love, and you’re genuinely left wondering which one she’ll chose. Her car gets towed, she’s got roommates for days and serving coffee in the centre of Hollywood icons is not as fun as it sounds.
The little modern touches throughout the film are what makes the big, old school musical sequences really sing. There’s a particularly gorgeous scene where Mia and Sebastian are trekking through the Hollywood Hills looking for their cars. Mia reluctantly sits down and begins to unbuckle her very high heels while rummaging around her huge shoulder bag for a pair of comfy flats.
Old movie stairs of yore maybe have been able to get through every scene with the highest of heels, but we modern day ladies know the importance of always having runners stashed in your purse.
It’s a small moment in the film, but after a closer second glace you realise she’s lacing up her dancing shoes. Then Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling break into one of the very best dance routines you’re likely to see at the cinema in your lifetime.
Even if you’re not a musical fan, you’ll find your own feet itching to dance in the hills overlooking the twinkling lights of Los Angeles.
The reason people are so mesmerised by La La Land is that it’s a return to what movies are meant to be: an experience. It’s a throwback to the days when going to the cinema was the biggest event of the week. Before binge-watching and Netflix, before just waiting for it to come out on DVD. A time where you settled down into a dark cinema and just got lost in world that’s as close to magic as we humans are ever going to get.
That’s what La La Land does.
After the movie, I couldn’t bring myself to get on the train and do something as mundane as go home to bed. Instead, I placed my headphone in my ears, pumped the La La Land soundtrack as high as it would go and walked (OK, danced) through the city streets. And I wasn’t the only one.
After a while, I realised I had better get in an Uber, because I was in the middle of Sydney and my movie was probably about to have a more slasher style ending.
So, even though I’m not supposed to say it, I’m just going to say that La La Land is the most magical movie of the year. Just don’t pass that on.
La La Land will be in cinemas on Boxing Day, 26 December.