Exceeding my expectations by some margin, I thought this a lovely film.
Musicals are such a rarity now so it's doubly satisfying to sit through this 'throw-back' to cinema's glory days with almost unalloyed pleasure.
It's an additional achievement in that all the songs (music: Justin Hurwitz. lyrics: Benj Posek & Justin Paul) are originals. Not show-stoppers, granted, but they more than do their job of being interesting enough in their own right while pushing the action forward. (There are also two or three 'golden oldies' at one point, played as background music).
Taking virtually exclusive acting honours are Ryan Gosling (doing all his own piano-playing, a lot of it near-virtuosic) and Emma Stone, who together sing and hoof some numbers very capably, with tightly synchronised, agreeble choreography demonstrating some nifty footwork . The sole large-scale song in terms of number of performers is the opening, pre-title, smiley, sing-along number.
Other than Gosling and Stone, the only other member of the cast I recognised was J.K.Simmons (also from director Damien Chazelle's very fine, though opinion-divisive, 'Whiplash') in what is little more than a cameo role. And I suppose I really ought to have recognised John Legend, though I'm now getting increasingly out of touch when it comes to contemporary culture.
Emma Stone is a counter-waitress in a Hollywood Cafe, also attending endless auditions, aspiring to become a theatre and screen actress. Gosling is a jazz pianist in a swanky bar where he soon gets fired by Simmons for not following orders on what to play. He moves onto more humble locations where he's spotted by Legend who invites him to join his jazz group.
The storyline is as corny as they come. Stone and Gosling's first encounter shortly after the film proper starts is one of animosity, and the hostilities continue when they meet up by chance a little later, though not for long. We all know the only route their acquaintance can take is that they'll soon be melting towards each other, falling in love - and singing and dancing, literally, in the air. But it's what I'd been hoping for, and it's delivered flawlessly and very nicely indeed.
The film, set nearly entirely in L.A., is broken up into parts titled with seasons of the year, and my only significant gripe is that it does sag a bit in the centre - and in the final parts, where song and dance become sparser, the drama between the two principals threatens to weigh down the story, increasing the contrast between the first and second halves, which I thought got a bit too heavy for the piece of fluff which this film is. A bit more judicious editing might have avoided this. However, it does seem to be a characteristic of virtually all musicals that about two-thirds through their drama becomes more intense, and risks subsuming all the rest. It's important, then, that it doesn't teeter over into melodrama - though in this case there's little chance of that happening. A bit over-serious, nonetheless.
Director Damien Chazelle, as well as writing this film, also has writing credits for the aforementioned 'Whiplash' as well as '10 Cloverfield Lane', the latter also attracting an elevated opinion from self.
Photography in this film is sumptuous throughout, as well as the effects. Direction, and the considerable imagination and originality that went into it could hardly have been bettered.
In an average year I normally award about half a dozen films a stratospheric (in my terms) rating of 8/10. Yet here we are, with only four films seen so far, and a second one with that elusive...........8.
39 minutes ago