Trailer Talk: La La Land (2016)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Release Date: December 2016

Damien Chazelle ’s much anticipated follow up to Whiplash released its first trailer / teaser today and it is gorgeous. Dubbed La La Land, this is probably the best trailer I’ve seen this year (so far) and here’s why:

1.  Colors of Paul Thomas Anderson

One of the first things I noticed about this trailer is how noticeable the colors are in each shot. Each gradient seems to be chosen with care to match the lighting in the shot and as a result the trailer is visually gorgeous. I would draw immediate comparisons to the Paul Thomas Anderson film “Punch Drunk Love” (arguably his most underrated and Adam Sandler’s best movie) which used a similar color scheme and employed heavy use of contrast in its framing as well. Notice how muted the surroundings look in contrast to the character’s clothing in both shots (above and below). Chazelle doesn’t have enough on his resume to have a defined style yet but if he is in fact drawing inspiration from others, PTA’s work is not a bad place to start.

Whatever the case may be Chazelle and his cinematographer (Linus Sandgren) seem to be working well together because this trailer is beautiful.

2. Maintain The Mystery

Part of what I love about this trailer is the fact that it gives nothing away. We open with Gosling singing (as if he didn’t set the bar impossibly high for other men already) and fall into a series of sequences that give away any plot details other than the fact that Gosling and Stone’s characters are in a romantic relationship. In fact beyond Gosling’s song, there are no other words spoken in the trailer. It is for all intents and purposes a strictly visual trailer.

This is refreshing in an age where trailers reveal far too much and give up either too much plot or its best material making the in theatre experience far less enjoyable because there is no longer any surprise.

Approaching it with such subtlety may make this movie hard to sell to the general public but the fact that they are burying this in December leads me to believe this is less about the money and more about being fresh in the minds of Academy voters when Oscar season rolls around.

3. Back Together Again

I do believe though that the trailer has little bearing on who will come see this film. Undoubtedly this film will draw a healthy crowd or at least general interest behind the names of its stars alone. Both Stone and Gosling are well known figures and have worked together previously on Crazy Stupid Love as well as Gangster Squad (where their chemistry was just about the only good thing about that film).

Stone in particular needs this to be a critical success just because she seems to have chosen so poor roles recently (Birdman notwithstanding). Replacing Emma Watson in the lead role may have been a good thing for this film overall simply because of the established rapport Gosling and Stone have but I shall wait to see the final product before making any further rash judgements.

4.  Chazelle

This may not end up being a blockbuster the same way a superhero movie might be but we’ve seen stranger things happen especially in the musical genre (Pitch Perfect’s massive success comes to mind). Chazelle to his credit did not immediately sign up for a mega movie with a massive budget like some of his contemporaries have following low budget success (Colin Trevorrow going from Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic World / Star Wars) and because of his success with Whiplash, the film community eagerly awaits his sophomore effort.

Judging by where its placed in the release schedule, I’d speculate that the studio believes they have an Oscar contender on their hands and if Chazelle can even come close to emulating the quality of Whiplash, I’d be hard pressed not to agree.

5. Stray Observations

  • The song that Gosling sings in this trailer is now available on Spotify
  • John Legend makes a cameo briefly in this trailer
  • Truth be told I am not in love with Gosling’s singing voice here
  • However it would not surprise me if a song from the soundtrack got nominated for best original song
  • It will be tough to win in that category though given John Carney’s Sing Street has a few catchy tunes and has been well received (good movie, definitely worth a watch)
  • Call me cheesy but the way Gosling and Stone look at each other makes me not want to give up on  the idea of a movie love….yet..