Damien Chazelle’s new musical La La Land is a stunning – and stunningly ambitious – film. It’s pure movie magic… and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s both fair and unfair to call the film a love-letter homage to colour-crazy song-and-dance fantasias like The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and Singin’ In The Rain. It is that, but it’s also so much more. It’s unapologetically romantic, thrillingly alive, and brilliantly inventive.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are the best on-screen couple in years. Stone plays Mia, a struggling actress who works as a barista on the lot of a Hollywood movie studio. Gosling is Sebastian, a jazz pianist whose traditional tastes and stubborn idealism put him at odds with the century he’s living in. Both are struggling to achieve their dreams in contemporary Los Angeles.
La La Land manages to be nostalgically traditional without being corny. The film opens with a bravura sequence set in an L.A. traffic jam. One passenger begins to sing an upbeat ode to California, then gets out of her car, breaks into dance, and before you know it, everyone in the traffic jam is singing and dancing too. It’s a hell of a way to open a movie.
Mia and Sebastian are two of the drivers and they have a brief encounter no one would define as meet-cute (he honks at her, she gives him the finger). But after another close encounter or two, they become a couple, and their dreamy romance is transporting – especially one Astaire-and-Charisse-style song-and-dance number overlooking the glittering cityscape of L.A. I don’t want to say too much about where the movie goes from there, but Stone and Gosling’s irresistible romance is a rare fizzy cocktail of heart-swelling joy and heartbreaking sadness. And the final sequence is easily the best 10 minutes I’ve spent in a cinema this year.
– Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly