La La Land (2016)

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The seasons of a charming love affair are illustrated wonderfully in this captivating scope of colour, sweetness, sadness and song. From the newest creation of Damien Chazelle, who stole hearts in last years Whiplash, comes an unapologetic romantic homage to the Hollywood glamour of the 1940’s and 1950’s, splashing its poster-paint energy and optimism on the big screen.

Emma Stone is Mia, a barista at the lot of Warner Brothers Studio with big dreams to join the acting world. But like most aspiring actresses, Mia has suffered through endless humiliating auditions with little hope of reaching her dreams. Ryan Gosling, as Sebastian, joins the scene as a mesmerising pianist and a passionate jazz purist, who bristles at the increasing bastardisation of what is considered to be in his mind the highest musical form. Mia and Sebastian’s first encounter is a prickly bump in during peak traffic, but soon enough the two meet again and the inevitable and unexpected happens – they fall in love.

Chazelle explores priceless musical sequences as a continuation of La La Land’s limitless possibilities. The seamless moments of singing and dancing are woven into the ordinary, creating an intimate sense of excitement and intrigue. The film holds exceptional use of cinematography, and an exquisite display of colour and light. The vibrancy of the costumes and lighting creates a masterpiece of vibrancy, a bright canvas for the romance of Mia and Sebastian to evolve. In saying that, while the musical scores of Justin Hurwitz soared in the opening scenes, toward the end La La Land lacked the heart and soul of a musical and focused instead on almost monotonous themes that rocked me to sleep. But undeniably, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry the film with charm and grace, piercing emotional moments with gut and expressive honesty – and enough romance to create brilliance.

La La Land is a sweet film for those of us who love love, or for those of us with dreams that need a little cheering up. La La Land is a celebration of Hollywood’s Golden Age, of jazz and of course of romance, with its heart bound in deep connections and relentless regret. Here’s to the fools who dream.

★★★★☆

Imdb – 8.9/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 93%

The Sapphires – Soulful Inspirations (2012)

Australian director Wayne Blair’s recent film based on the hit stage musical, The Sapphires, is a warm, big-hearted crowd pleaser. A powerful combination of perky music, appealing performances and an enlightening story delivers this film festival favourite; virtually impossible to resist. This film is a good old-fashioned romantic musical comedy that is both emotionally and harmoniously spotless.

Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires is about three cheeky yet talented Aboriginal sisters and their cousin living their dream of performing on stage. The film originates in Australia 1968 precisely during the harsh Vietnam War. Sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia travel into town to audition in a local talent competition where Dave Lovelace, a scruffy keyboard player, recognizes their talent and takes them on a whirlwind of challenges and incredible opportunities. Follow the journey of four ambitious singers and discover the meaning of love, friendship and hope all over again.

Tony Briggs, son of one of the original sapphires, creates the screenplay in collaboration with Goalpost pictures. The movie’s finger-snapping appeal comes from R&B and rock ‘n’ roll tunes that offer an arousing yet astonishing soundtrack to the disturbing Vietnam war. The Sapphires wear decorated outfits of the era and move with stylized choreography of original sixties girl groups.

The central performances of all the actors have their pleasures but the film’s irresistible on-screen chemistry comes in the form of Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. The ‘Bridesmaids’ co-star plays scruffy talent scout and manager Dave Lovelace, who introduces the women to soul music. He’s joined by authentic soul sisters Jessica Mauboy, the pop sensation who steals the show with her sumptuous lead vocals and the constantly oppressed yet talented Deborah Mailman. Funky singers Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens are the most dominant and feminine members of the group.

The Sapphires is more than just a cute musical comedy, although if you make it through this film with dancing and singing along then you have a heart made of stone! Between all the amazing singing and performing the film explores some real history and the struggle for respect and rights that Aboriginal people went through during this period, as well as the unsettling reality of life in the war zone. The Sapphires sing their R&B hearts out, wow the servicemen and discover the meaning of family, friendship and war.