La La Land (2016)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, JK Simmons, John Legend

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Ah, La La Land. So massively hyped I'm almost afraid to go and see it in case it's a crashing disappointment.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

Non-spoiler alert – it's not. It's wonderful, magical; it lifts you up, effortlessly, a flawless, self-reflexive paean to the glitz and glamour of Tinsel Town, the dazzling superficiality, the crushing grind of endless auditions and humiliating rejections; the dreams. The dreams.

But all the time I'm thinking... why is this the Best Film Ever Made™ while Julian Temple's Absolute Beginners is one of the worst?

Setting aside the fact that Patsy Kensit totally can't act (but hell, when it comes to dancing Ryan Gosling's no Gene Kelly) they're basically the same film. Both start with a dazzling, daring tracking shot, an explosion of music and character and colour that immediately plunges the viewer into the beating heart of the locale – be it sun-drenched, sultry LA or seedy Soho. Both are hope-filled almost-love stories of two young people on the brink of the rest of their lives, bursting with promise and ambition; as long as they're together the rest can go to hell – until the rest gets in the way, offering them more.

Okay, I may be pushing this a little (although no-one can deny that both also offer great performances and insanely catchy tunes – yeah, yeah, okay I'll leave it there.)

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

But (oh wait) just as Absolute Beginners is a lurid, loving tribute to the late 1950s, so La La Land is a glorious, Technicolor tribute to the MGM musicals of the 1940s, all glowing primary hues, sudden flights of whimsical fancy and zinging, witty dance routines. It's a love song to Hollywood and its classic rise and fall story arc, Singin' in the Rain meets A Star is Born; the love/career tug of war of The Red Shoes seen through the lens of the 21st century celebrity conscious uncoupling; tinged with the sad realisation that even the richest, brightest, most beautiful stars (here's looking at you, Brad, Angelina, Johnny, Gwyneth, Tom) can't actually have it all.

It's gorgeous, delightful, life-affirming and yet also laced with bittersweet sadness. It wears its old school inspiration like a badge of honour, a heart on the sleeve that beats to a syncopated jazz beat. But it's also like nothing you've ever seen before.

(Unless, of course, you've seen Absolute Beginners...)

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