(Wonder) Girl Meets World


QUICK TAKE A Superheroine for our times, not just to break through the superhero clutter, but also in terms of message

“I am the man to do it!” Says Diana Prince at one point. And she certainly is that, and more!

Imagine, if you will, Imagine, as conceived and composed by a heavy metal band. Patty Jenkins’ surefooted Wonder Woman (not just because its IDF trained lead, Gal Gadot, can stick a solid landing) is that in cinema form, banging the war drums at full tilt and yet neatly delivering a message of peace, brotherhood and the choice between good and evil. 

There has been intense scrutiny of the director, the lead and pretty much everything about this film that was the first female led superhero movie from a major studio in this golden age of superhero movies, a matter that has been exacerbated by the fact that DC’s other tent poles have fallen quite flat. For it to deliver without falling into the brooding trap that Batman v Superman did or to show that superheroines kick as much ass and are as cool if not cooler as their male counterparts was satisfying to watch. 

But even devoid of all this contrived and constricting context Wonder Woman is a fun superhero movie, one that doesn’t sweat too heavily on plot and does its characters great justice in setting up their arcs and destinies. It doesn’t feel a perennial set up for the next installment like some of the other franchise films do (there is significant closure for the most part). And, yes, it is utterly gorgeous. From the island of Themyscira to the battle sequences there are virtuoso turns of dazzling brilliance (in both normal speed and slo mo) that would make co-writer Zack Snyder blush with equal parts envy and pride. 

And all of this is illuminated by Gal Gadot, who seems born to play the titular role, bringing grace and panache in equal measure making it very believable to follow a thus far sheltered Diana Prince(ss of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta) thrown into the ‘world of men’ as the Great War rages. Her empathy is portrayed superbly and not as a cliched weakness but as someone who genuinely wields that feeling to question and upend the order of the world around her. The superpowers, the jaw dropping action and the brilliant stunts are just the right icing on this empathy cake. 

Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a US pilot turned British spy, on the run from the Germans, crashes into Themyscira where he is rescued by Amazon princess Diana who then finds herself drawn into his war because of its possible connection to her own past. What follows is a standard war film with a twist – the presence of a peacemaker in the form of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince. Snyder’s co written story doesn’t make it too complicated letting the transformation and understanding that Diana goes through, in coming to terms with a world besides her own, take center stage. Gadot handles that expertly well supported by the rest of the cast. 

While Wonder Woman may not shift any paradigms in your standard superhero(ine) origin story, it certainly does show there is enough and more room for diversity and female empowerment. And for those who were incensed at the ‘women only’ showings of the movie, this is a rad comic book film by itself that will probably find women among its loudest cheerleaders. And that’s just fine. As Diana says at one point – to let the light within us shine or let the darkness take over is a choice. And if you, like her, are about empathy, you will make the right one. 

Screenshot Sachin

RATING 7.5/10

QUICK TAKE For fan and non-fan (if any exist) alike, the first step towards a definitive Tendulkar narrative

First things first. I am huge Sachin Tendulkar fan. Having watched him literally from the first day of his career till his last, I was obviously going to enjoy a nostaligic look back into his life and career, even if James Erskine had put all this together as an iMovie project. I would gladly have walked into the next screen if that was showing *another* Sachin docu after Sachin: A Billion Dreams finished. And to cut a long story short, enjoy this documentary feature I did, as it at least offered us a humanising look at a cricketer so deified that one would have thought it weren’t possible to present him even remotely that way. Having said that, though, it did feel excessively cloying at places and while A R Rahman’s background score is splendid, it sometimes, like an over eager Sachin fan, jumped out of its seat too early in its crescendos. 

We all know the story. Boy genius is hooked on to the game after watching India win the World Cup in 1983, dreams of winning it himself, upends the world of cricket with unheard of levels of talent, unwittingly becomes the carrier of a billion hopes, has his cherished dream set back many times, before redemption in the city he was born. James Erskine, who made England’s Italia ’90 World Cup exploits (they finished third losing to West Germany in a penalty shootout in the semi) look heroic in One Night In Turin, would have found it easy to work with so much material to mine in the Sachin narrative. There were enough triumphs to tribulations to triumphs cycles for about 5 such movies. 

For the most part he lets the straightforward chronology, Tendulkar’s sensational shot making and Harsha Bhogle and Tony Greig’s iconic commentary do the work. But where the film truly comes alive and tugs at your heart strings is watching the people behind the man – Sachin’s family, his mother recalling his childhood antics and pranks with a twinkle in her eye, his sister recalling giving him his first cricket bat, or his brother on how he took him to his first coaching classes and above all, the biggest influence in his life, his dad, who we see through some brief yet beautiful family camcorder footage. Anjali Tendulkar, his wife, is another marvellous revelation in a documentary where everyone else is speaking as a pundit (the Bhogles, the Boira Majumdars and the Gideon Haighs). She speaks as a genuine part of Sachin’s life giving us a true behind the scenes glimpse into a mind which we have only seen through a zen lens that came on whenever Sachin, the cricketer took the field. 

To see Sachin as a dad, a husband and a family man is to somehow see his whole career in new light and realising the enormity of the trade offs that have defined him over more than quarter of a century. The film is unquestionably a flattering portrait; it sidesteps or only mentions in passing some of the more controversial phases of his career – the botched captaincy stints, the Azhar equation, the fixing saga – which seems in contrast to how, say, French footballers do not hold back in discussing some of the most controversial aspects their football team ever faced in the documentary Les Bleus. But that is likely a deliberate choice framing this as a Sachin tribute poster you’d have on your bedroom wall rather than a chaotic smorgasbord of opinions on Sachin. 

He is a complicated figure to unpack because he has held so many things close to his chest during his playing days and beyond. And that is where even the briefest of fresh breeze of insight rustling through those old videos or a recollection of a family member or a teammate is so refreshing and makes the film completely worth your while. Sachin’s story is in some ways India’s post liberalisation story and somehow we feel entitled to answers on everything from him because it is often that we project ourselves on to his persona. But that is perhaps too much to expect. At one point a fan says in the movie that Sachin’s batting was the only form of entertainment available to him. Subconsciously it has been like that for many of us who grew up with Sachin’s rise and rise. And we just want the whole story put into context. So, for now, we have to make do with this and as a fan yearning for nostalgia there isn’t much to fault here. 

The (probably) messier side of the Sachin story? Maybe that is left for another time and another place. 

Taking care of business


QUICK TAKE Thoroughly entertaining with the masala done just about right 

Easy Rider: Raees is a fun ride because it never lets excessiveness take over – a remarkable feat for an out and out masala entertainer

When I go to watch a movie riding on its superstar, larger than life lead, I have a simple test to try and keep my fanboy tendencies in check. I scan the movie for scenes or situations which were sincelerly applause worthy by the fans and not just for the sake of cult-ish hyperbole. In Raees (spoiler alert: I am an SRK fan too!) I used the same yardstick as we saw Shah Rukh Khan enter the frame as the titular character, a hustler who builds his own illicit liquor smuggling empire. There are obviously a few indulgences and some excesses (an extended parkour like fight against a sniper that seemed to only serve the purpose of inserting some egregious action) but for the large part, Raees does well to keep its kitschy tendencies in check, even though it is telling a classically kitschy Gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold story. It may not showcase the deep moral dilemmas that lets the story exist, but it definitely acknowledges them rather than indulging in outright glorification. 

While it echoes many of the benchmark setting films in this genre, from Scarface to American Gangster (and closer home, from Deewar to Company), Raees doesn’t muddle its mandate to entertain and jettisons the more complex and nuanced points that an American Gangster or a Deewar tried to drive home. Shah Rukh Khan strikes a smart balance between histrionics and understatedness and uses it to good effect to portray the transformation of a small time bootlegger to someone with Pablo Escobar-esque ambition in terms of changing the state of the society he grew up in. And while we run through a set of dispensable villains, primarily set up through pulling different strands of real events together (the bomb blasts and the riots are all referenced here, in very off handed and behind the scenes ways), the able foil and the real intrigue in Raees comes from Nawazuddin Siddique’s cop, Majmudar. Siddique is every frame Khan’s equal and is brilliant at deadpanning which provides some of the most humorous scenes in the entire set up. 

The supporting cast (including the excellent Zeeshan Ayub of Ranjhanaa fame and a very Bhoomika Chawla looking Mahira Khan) do a competent job but the film does lack a compelling character beyond Khan and Siddique’s. There are audience pleasing and audience appeasing-bordering-on-pandering lines thrown in for good measure but somehow nothing feels excessive or overbearing. The result is a perfect pot boiler that does its job of delivering entertainment despite some hiccups (a stretch immediately after the intermission drags needlessly, for example) and missteps, Raees has the swag and bravado (much like the character himself) to land a good punch. It might as well have a Gladiatorial SRK at the end screaming at us ‘Are You Not Entertained?’ and the answer would be a thumbs up. 

Zappy meal


QUICK TAKE Stylized and simplistic spiel, but highly enjoyable spiel at that

Trouble among pioneers and founders in the early days of growth of an iconic business make for great drama – just ask the guys behind The Social Network or Steve Jobs. The Founder, which recounts the story of how Ray Croc revolutionized the fast food industry by making McDonald’s a household name while in the process taking a lot away from the original founders of the chain and the idea, the McDonald brothers – Richard (Nick Offerman breaks his usual mound and offers us a man you empathize with) and Mac, also has a rich slate of information to mine drama from but it decides to take a slightly more formulaic route. 

Not unlike the standardized menu and meals of the corporation whose story it tells through the lens of Michael Keaton’s Croc, The Founder eventually turns out to be a film that seems to have a faux seriousness about itself. Much the same way McDonald’s sometimes tries to sound earnest about ‘nutrition’. The story is simplified and stylized relying on many easy business biopic tropes to introduce us to the idea and the characters but Keaton’s performance and his easy charm in capturing Croc’s drive and ambition is what gives it the gravitas that makes it so enjoyable. John Lee Hancock’s direction gives it a feel somewhere between a documentary and a TV movie but a bit like what Moneyball did for baseball statistics, The Founder makes the mundane business of fast food production and selling look and sound interesting and for brief periods even exciting. 

The Founder as a film doesn’t seem deeply interested in exploring the dilemmas and the questions that are logically raised when Croc’s ruthless vision of profit at all costs capitalism meets the McDonald brothers’ customer and family come first version of the system. But while that remains a deficiency, it does not take away from an enjoyable couple of hours of viewing and some fascinating insights into the early days of a global behemoth which now feeds 1% of the world’s population every day. One thing it does well though is to sprinkle some very idiosyncratic ‘funny-with-the-benefit-of-hindsight’ humor (at one point one of the McDonald brothers goes “This is McDonald’s. I will not have any kind of crass commercialism here.”) as well as little witticisms throughout that cut through the repetitiveness and familiarity of some of the scenes and settings. But then again, McDonalds is about repetitiveness and familiarity. 

The Founder is, like a Happy Meal, is a perfect little treat to indulge yourself in and in the process be at least intrigued* by the brand McDonlads. 

[*In case you are really curious, Behind The Arches and Fast Food Nation are good reads to delve deeper.]

The Dangal between reel and real

First things first, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dangal. I have done dozens of reviews on this blog and I am usually very lenient with films as long as I had a blast watching them and they either entertained me or made me think or, the best case scenario, both. As a film and a story, Dangal, telling the story of how Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former wrestler decided to mould his daughters into world champion wrestlers despite massive odds and the added difficulty of having to break patriarchal norms in the state of Haryana in general and the sport of wrestling in particular, is quite meticulously made. 

There is a lot of differences between the reel and real story, some understandable, some baffling.

It is what you would expect of an Aamir Khan project, which typically rival the gestation periods of Asian elephants, but also usually produce results just as majestic. Its attention to technical details about the sport was phenomenal and the way the young actors – unknown faces picked after gruelling auditions – portrayed the sisters Geeta and Babita on screen was fantastic hitting all the right notes, whether with the humour or the drama. The entire mix was hugely entertaining despite a few flaws, most of which had to do with narrative short cuts and cliched sports movies tropes. But my first reaction after stepping out of the theatre was that its technical and casting brilliance had atoned well for its laziness in other places. Having said that, I was indeed curious to find out a bit more about the background of Mahavir and his remarkable daughters, both of whom I had seen in action during the Commonwealth Games and the younger, Babita and her cousin Vinesh, more recently in the Rio Olympics. In the adaption of any true story (I have spoken about it in my reviews of Airlift and Argo), filmmakers typically take a lot of dramatic and creative license to define conflicts, issues and motivations of the characters more sharply in the narrative, where they don’t have the luxury of time. I expected the writers of Dangal to have done the same and just to address my curiosity I picked up ‘Akhada – The Authorized Biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat’ by Saurabh Duggal, a journalist with the Hindustan Times. Duggal’s book would have been better served had it been carried as a long form article in a newspaper or magazine, but nonetheless is competent piece of work that gives us reasonable (and for the most part, in decent detail) context and background about this remarkable story of female wrestlers emerging in a male dominated sport that is nestled within a male dominated milieu. 

I found a few important differences that I feel need to be pointed out, if only to not let the film version’s artificial binaries and black and white depictions colour over a more nuanced story. 

1. Mahavir has a son

The film posits that Mahavir was obsessed with turning his daughters into champion wrestlers to fulfil a dream he had hoped his son would fulfil, but despite having four children he had no son. He is shown to be visibly disappointed when the midwife is repeatedly shown breaking the news that ‘it is a girl, again’. The key difference between reel and real is that Geeta and Babita do have a brother, Dushyant, who is younger to them but isn’t really into wrestling. But, crucially, the book clarifies that Mahavir was the one delighted at the announcement of having been blessed with a baby daughter; it was his wife who seemed crestfallen as was some of the rest of his family, a not uncommon sight in Haryana, where the sex ratio in India is one of the lowest. The real Mahavir was motivated by just the idea that no one was claiming the incentives the government had announced for Olympic champions so he wanted to address that void and the fact that he was someone who did not believe in discriminating between genders, a possible offshoot of the fact that he had spent a lot of time outside the state because of a property business he ran in Delhi. 

2. Geeta and Babita both won in 2010.

In the film, the focus is clearly on Geeta, the eldest sister and her quest for glory at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 held at New Delhi. And while it is true that she was the first female Indian wrestler to win a Commonwealth Games medal, her sister Babita was a contestant in the other weight category and won a medal after her. In the film, for obvious reasons, we never get to see Babita competing. Interestingly, Geeta did beat a wrestler from Wales in the first round, one from Nigeria in the semi final and an Australian in the final at the Games as the film depicts but her win in the final came by far easier than is depicted in the movie (once again, dramatic license to make the climax more thrilling, which isn’t necessarily bad per se) – she won in two straight rounds. One of the film’s more egregious tired sports movie trope moves is depicting the fictional Australian wrestler as some kind of mean opponent who deserved her comeuppance like she is a stand in for Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (the worst Rocky, by the way). Oh, and speaking of conflicts…

3. The coaching standoff was far more nuanced

One important source of dramatic tension in the third act of the movie is the friction between Mahavir, who had been Geeta’s coach till she moved to the National Sports Institute in Patiala to prepare for international tournaments, and the coach assigned to her by the institute. Early on they have a face off about training methods and the new coach tells Geeta that she will have to unlearn all that her father has taught her because that is not how international competitions are won. It is true that Mahavir had differences in opinion about the coaching Geeta was receiving at NSI and also true that he tried to intervene and was subsequently barred from coming to the institute or provide any supplementary training; however, the coach P S Sondhi never rally have any of the ugly spats that we see on screen. In fact, Sondhi willingly allowed Mahavir to be at some of the sessions. Even when things came to a head about the NSI and the coach not allowing Mahavir to conduct extra sessions for his daughters himself, Sondhi says that “he didn’t resist our move and later even understood my point”. The egotistically driven Mahavir played by Aamir Khan in the movie doesn’t relent, though, leading to the slightly over the top exchanges we see towards the end, which casts the poor coach in rather unfortunate light. No wonder Sondhi said he was ‘hurt’ on getting to know how the climax panned out.

4. Path of least resistance

The film does remarkably little in highlighting the resistance Mahavir faced from his own extended family about introducing the two girls to wrestling and later even their cousins – there are six Phogat sisters who have represented India at the international level – which could have been mined for rich and nuanced drama. Sakshi Tanwar plays a rather stoic mom whereas the real life mother, Daya Kaur, was far more involved in the kids’ path to becoming wrestlers, even relocating to Patiala when they were at the NSI. In the film, their male cousin, Omkar, is the one who moves to Patiala with his Tauji. In the laser focused film version, Mahavir overcomes most of the resistance – whether in the family, the akhada, or the institute – entirely by himself, whereas in reality support from his brother Rajinder proved crucial. One last point, in its single minded obsessive framing, the film never highlights that while Mahavir imposed wrestling upon his daughters, he was very particular that they finish their education too, something that the book highlights. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, I enjoyed watching Dangal, but at the same time like any other sports movie I wouldnt read too much into its messages – explicit or latent. That doesn’t mean we should let it off the hook either. I highly recommend Saurabh Duggal’s book, it is a breezy read and lends some important perspective while providing us with important details about a rather remarkable story, nuance that at the altar of film marketing, got bedazzled in Dangal, the movie. 

I am with the Force, the Force is with me…

A not so long time ago, in a galaxy very much nearby…

A New Hope

I discovered Star Wars when I was an adult. Approximately a decade and a half back. For almost a decade of that stretch, I didn’t think much of the whole thing, but over the last five years or so it has become indispensable to me, not just as a source of pop culture entertainment but as a framing mechanism, a mechanism to think about a lot of things, a beacon of hope when things turn dismal. What rebels stole the plans to the Death Star of my ignorance and apathy? What brave Rebel pilot carried out the mission of turning me into an incorrigible fan who is hopelessly and irrationally in love with Star Wars? That’s what I am trying to patch together in these next couple of posts. It’s a personal recollection and will likely contain no profound revalations but if you still insist on reading on, I hope it lends some perspective, about fandom and its uses in general, and Star Wars in particular. 

Unlike the typical Star Wars fan narrative, I wasn’t someone who grew up watching the original trilogy (although theroretically I could have; I match the age profile of that demographic) or someone who had the baton of fandom passed on by their parents who were big fans. I ran into the Star Wars universe almost by accident, as a 21 year old, who should probably have disliked the whole thing because the first full Star Wars movie I watched was Revenge Of The Sith, and with very little context of the story that came before or after it. 

But that is the funny thing. Despite a chaotic and disjointed introduction, the Star Wars universe had somehow managed to charm me. You might think it was probably the incessant marketing. After all, coming into this world as an ultimate outsider, one who had not bothered to catch up on Star Wars canon, but wanted to be hip and with it by jumping on to the bandwagon, I was ripe for the picking. But it was barely the case. I had not become a cheerleader of the franchise just to sound cool or to be ‘with it’. Although, ironically enough, it did sort of start that way. 

The Phantom Menace

I was watching the run of the mill, rather average Ashton Kutcher-Britanny Murphy starrer Just Married, and my first brush with an explicit Star Wars reference piqued my interest. I was 21 back then, and coming from a small town where we had just one functioning movie theatre, coupled with the fact that we’d gotten cable only in 1998, meant that I had never even heard, let alone seen Star Wars. In Just Married, Murphy’s character dreams about the perfect wedding, replete with a gorgeous dress and pretty setting and then asks Kutcher’s character if he dreamed of how his wedding would be when he was a child. His flashback is stereotypically male as we see him & his friends jousting with make believe lightsabers as the Star Wars theme plays in the background. It was a lazy reference in what was mostly a throwaway moment in the movie but it stuck with me. More specifically the idea of the reference stuck with me. Why was I supposed to find this funny? Was I supposed to find this nostalgic? Because I sure as heck did not find it to be either. But John Williams’ soaring score I had heard somewhere before and hearing it again touched some kind of a chord. I intuitively knew that the idea of Star Wars is somehow supposed to be all pervasive and touching all of us in unique ways. 

Effectively I had been drawn into the Star Wars universe, much the same way most children are drawn into the world of religion – by observing a ritual and obsessing over what it means. 

Attack of the Clones

I found my answer soon enough. Apparently Star Wars is a huge and popular movie. Actually, movies. Ones that were so popular that people love to ape the iconic lightsaber battles depicted in said movies. Once I started looking, I could see Star Wars references cropping up everywhere. The use of the line ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ or any of its variants was one that I saw most often. ‘May the Force be with you’ as a greeting or blessing was another. I heard about the ‘These are not the droids you’re looking for…’ line because I read about it in some article about the most popular movie lines of all time. They all sounded very interesting but I had very little inkling of what the story of Star Wars was or even why there were three movies. 

In those days, I wasn’t as furiously curios as I get these days so I never really pressed anyone (or any thing – I had access to the internet) to find out what Star Wars was about or to watch any of the movies. That bug would bite me much later. But slowly the references started creeping into my conversations; often, I had no clue if I was using them right. All of this would sound heretical and blasphemous to any dyed in the wool Star Wars fan, but the way things went, I didn’t think I’d ever cross over to being a fan. I just thought casual referencing to feed a sense of faux coolness would be the end of that. I could not have been more wrong if I had been a galactic insurance adjuster thinking on his visit to Alderaan ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ 

Revenge of the Sith

In 2003, I came to Bangalore. And in 2005 Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith released. With a new multiplex in town, I had the chance to soak in the frenzy of Star Wars at full tilt. But more importantly, this was the first chance I had to actually see a Star Wars movie on screen. Scratch that. The first chance I had to watch a Star Wars movie. Period. I had read up on the trilogy, gotten a bit of a better idea of what the story was about, heard someone talk about what the movies did for special effects in Hollywood but for all my efforts I had not been able to find DVDs or even pirated versions of the movies to watch. The result was that I had appreciation for the idea and the impact of Star Wars, but from a strange distance. I gauged the pop culture impact of the franchise, got to know some of the other good lines (the Yoda speech syntax, I adopted; beeped like R2D2 at times, I did) and yes, about Darth Vader. But I wasn’t yet immersed in the world of Star Wars. I appreciated it as much as say, Jaws or E.T.- again, two movies I hadn’t watched till I was much older. 

Anyway, I went to a midnight showing of Revenge Of The Sith; if you’re thinking this is where I tell you that I fell head over heels in love with Star Wars, then you’re as mistaken as Han Solo calling the Death Star a moon. I laboured through the movie, sleeping off towards the end of the second act and literally waking up when Annakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi started duelling with their lightsabers amidst the hot lava on Mustafar. I had just watched the movie to tick it off my list. I wanted to watch the original trilogy and Episodes I & II but with my search for DVDs still yielding my Star Wars curiosity was frozen in the carbonite of pop culture neglect. 

How then, you may be wondering, did I end up being the fan that I am today? One who adores to bits almost every aspect of the Star Wars universe and someone who derives genuine happiness from all things Star Wars? For that you have Fanboys, the movie, and a McDonalds Happy Meal to thank. 
[To be concluded…]



QUICK TAKE Joyful, if sometimes melancholic romp through an artist’s world of struggles 

Damien Chazelle may be barely past 30, but his understanding of the pain of an artist, be it the young drummer in 2014’s Whiplash or the aspiring jazz pianist (Ryan Golsing playing Sebastian) and aspiring actress (Emma Stone playing Mia Dolan) in La La Land, is quite exquisite in its framing. As a story La La Land is almost too simplistic – the paths of two down on their luck artists, an actress looking for her big break and a jazz pianist looking to break away from the tyranny of playing set lists at restaurants, cross and they become intertwined into each other’s narratives – but it has an energy that keeps it going.

The music is beautifully rendered, the jazz bits are not overbearing and there is a sunny LA vibe plastered all over the imagery that is wonderfully crafted. Where La La Land truly shines as more than the sum of its parts is when it is perfectly self aware of its simplicity and does not want to pack unwanted nuance. Films about films in Hollywood have enjoyed some sort of a charming comeback since The Artist, and La La Land certainly channels some of that, at times almost looking like a colour and talkie version of the artist. But where it charms you most is through its two leads – Ryan Gosling deadpans solidly once again this year after The Nice Guys and Emma Stone’s infectious goofball enthusiasm is as irresistible as ever. Stone’s Mia Dolan as a character develops fantastically well through the film showing nuance and depth that she excellently brings out in what must count as her best outing yet. I have been a huge fan of Stone from the early days and remain irrationally in love with Easy A, and a lot of that spunk you can detect here too but with a hint of more maturity that makes it magnificent. 

The film may ostensibly be about the struggles of an artist but fundamentally it is about the anguish of having and chasing a dream. And that is a relatable point no matter what profession you are in. It is almost the epitome of the human condition. The lines are mostly sharp and witty (early Sebastian-Mia banter is thoroughly enjoyable, with a trace of Gosling and Stone’s chemistry in 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love) but the film’s most vistuoso sequence is at the end where for almost six minutes there is not a single line of dialogue and an improvised piano track takes us through what is effectively a film within the film. 

These visual flourishes coupled with two charming actors at their charming best playing along to a joyous soundtrack make La La Land an enchanting watch. If you believe the charm of a simple story and some beautiful technicolor movie making grandeur old Hollywood style, walk in and sit transfixed. And have a great time!