Having demonstrated a flair for rhythm-based cinema with 2014's Whiplash, writer-director Damien Chazelle took it a step further with this fully-fledged 21st century Hollywood musical. What emerged was a slice of cinematic spectacle that wowed critics, audiences and award-givers with its mix of romance and nostalgia.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play Mia and Seb, two young Los Angeles wannabes chasing respective dreams of becoming an actress and opening a jazz club. Following a couple of fractious early meetings the duo slowly warm to one another until – in time honoured tradition – romance blossoms. But can Mia and Seb's love survive the compromises and sacrifices they both must make as they strive to keep their dreams alive?
As saccharine as this all may sound, La La Land's story has a bittersweet centre that is much more in keeping with Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg than the classic Hollywood musicals that the film's visuals and music work so hard to evoke. And while neither Stone nor Gosling are particularly gifted when it comes to either singing or dancing, the chemistry they share resonates throughout the film's musical numbers, and their occasional awkwardness only makes Mia and Seb even more relatable as vulnerable characters.
Picture: Presented in 2.55:1 CinemaScope, La La Land's 1080p encode hits the ground running with the freeway musical number Another Day of Sun. Bursting with bright colours and shot by a camera that seems incapable of standing still, it's a strong indication of the visual delights that this BD has in store for viewers. Darker scenes tend to see a slight drop-off in detail levels, but even then the encode still handles colour extremely well – just look at the way it picks out the blue of Mia's party dress as she walks into the darkened nightclub and first sees Seb playing the piano (Chapter 2).
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: La La Land's Dolby Atmos mix doesn't go in for flashy overhead effects. That's not to say that it is not an immersive and atmospheric piece of sound design, but the real focus is on opening up the musical numbers throughout the speaker array, which it does wonderfully well.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: In addition to a commentary by Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz, the Blu-ray also finds space for 10 informative behind-the-scenes featurettes (with a combined running time just shy of 80 minutes), demo versions of two songs, three trailers and a poster gallery.
Extras rating: 3.5/5
We say: Both movie and Blu-ray release are worth singing about –even if you hate jazz.
La La Land, Lionsgate, Region B BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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