Thanks to the London Film Festival though, a handful of jammy bastards (hello) got to experience it early, and an experience is exactly what it is. La La Land is not so much a film as a celebration: a vital and jubilant reminder that beautiful, colourful, widescreen magic still exists, and a declaration from its ambitious, talented and irritatingly young director that he absolutely did not come to dick about. This is the full package, the real deal; oozing with talent and crammed to the edge of every frame with heart-bursting wonderment.
Announcing itself with a stupendous opening number that fizzes with primary colours and fluid camera moves (like all the songs, it's presented as one long, unimaginably complex shot), La La Land earned its first round of applause at my screening before the title even appeared. Just one display of Chazelle's balls-out confidence occurs towards the end of that number, when someone skateboards off the bonnet of a car: why would anyone in their right mind put something so likely to go wrong at the climax of such a complicated shot? You soon realise, though, that the whole film is full of risks like that. Chazelle's chutzpah is fully justified, and there are two very good reasons why: Stone and Gosling.
For a cynical noughties audience, it takes actors of this calibre to sell something as potentially disastrous as a song-and-dance routine. But sell it they do: they're no Fred and Ginger (Gosling in particular is occasionally less than light on his feet), but they throw themselves into each number with spirit, Chazelle's inventive direction and Linus Sandgren's sensational cinematography helping to conceal any missteps. And in celebrating the movies (Stone's aspiring actress / writer works as a barista on the Warner Bros lot), the set-pieces recall the likes of Top Hat, Singin' In The Rain and The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg with just the right amount of deference.
Of course if you're a terrible nitpicker you might find yourself lamenting the cursory appearance of a handful of first-act characters: Sebastian's sister pops up for a single expository scene and is summarily forgotten; Mia's housemates get one song before suffering a similar fate; JK Simmons is cruelly teased in a hilarious but all-too-brief cameo. But if those guys are sacrificed then it's on the altar of the film's incandescent leads, and given that they're probably the two people with whom most of us would want to be trapped on a desert island, the absence of a few minor characters is hardly felt. It's almost as if La La Land has nothing else wrong with it whatsoever.