Finally got round to seeing this and being a dyed in the wool member of the 'loving the classic Hollywood musicals' club, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. The much lauded opening freeway number felt like a bog standard, modern music video you see all over MTV/VH-1 these days (remember when those channels played....music videos???) and the introductions to Gosling and Stone felt ok and solid, but nothing grabbed me........
.....until the first party where they meet properly and thanks to a number of classic 80s choons done karaoke style, the film burst into life. The two actors/characters chemistry was superb and their opening dance number utterly fantastic, really conveying the easy charisma and technical skills of the best from those classic musicals. From here, the film just grabbed me and wouldn't let go through the opening two acts - with some brilliant comedic interplay and banter that at times reminded me of older, better films but somehow fit perfectly and naturally within the realms of these two characters and their relationship. What was so nice about these two were that they were such nerds (granted very good looking and cool nerds.....but nerds all the same) - movie geeks, music freaks, some of the glimpses into their world brought a smile to this movie AND music nerds face - it hinted at almost a 'Day for Night' tone as we go behind the scenes of a movie set; the scene where they watch a classic film and then end up at one of its locations before bursting into a fantastical dance number was amazing and actually made me say "that's so cool" out loud to myself. And the passion these two had for their loves just felt.....real.
However, the third act stumbled. The musical numbers faded away into almost non-existence as the film becomes a much more straight-forward relationship drama - I get that what Chazelle was trying to do was marry the traditional musical to a more real life sensibility, but it meant the film lost its legs in doing so. Don't get me wrong, I still was very much invested in the characters and wanted to see how they ended up, but its like the film purposefully changed its whole tone in trying to do this (lots of little cues for this as well - the film starts with everyone wearing bold, simple, block colours, hinting at a more stylised world, but by the time we get to their third act, that colour scheme has kinda faded into everyone wearing just normal clothes, signifying a return to the more 'regular' world). And a final scene re-run of the whole film, using a massively stylised and fantastical song and dance number just made me realise that THAT was the film I really wanted to have seen, not this more realistic one that I got.
Still, its hugely engaging, brilliantly played by these two leads who work so well together and a decent try and doing something very different to the current marketplace. It just doesn't fully commit to the whole 'classic Hollywood musical' genre anywhere near enough for me and the songs, whilst good, didn't have that immediacy of classical musical numbers that mean I'm humming them straight away after its finished. Good, nearly great.....but not quite.
Its a decent looking and sounding UHD presentation, without either being stupendous. The colours utterly pop and I can only imagine what this must look like on a decent HDR/WCG display. Its grainy and slightly soft, but that's intentional to mimic the 50s Technicolor presentations its inspired by and on that note, I thought it looked really organic, really natural and really nice. The Atmos track was subtle in its use of overheads and surround/LFE action and while everything sounded really nicely balanced and clear, there wasn't much of that 'Atmos bubble' we're used to getting - maybe because a lot of the film just didn't lend itself to that kind of soundtrack. Again, very good....just without being excellent (although that's not a fault of the transfer).
Summary - I enjoyed it and can appreciate it for what it tried to do....I just think I'd have preferred a much more straightforward attempt at a musical, rather than trying so hard to marry it up to a more 'real life' sensibility. Can't fault the two leads though who were fantastic and really made you care about these characters, so even those who 'don't like musicals' should still get plenty out of this.