'La La Land' is la la lovely

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in LA LA LAND. Photo credit: Dale Robinette

La La Land
4 out of 5 Stars
Damien Chazelle
Writers: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt
Genre: Musical, Drama, Comedy
Rated: PG-13 for some language
Recommended to: Anyone looking for brightly colored spectacle with a very amiable cast.

Synopsis: The story of a struggling jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone).

Review: Hollywood is narcissistic; it loves films that celebrate itself. This year alone we had the criminally underrated “Hail, Caesar!,” the underwhelming “Café Society,” the clumsy “Rules Don’t Apply” and now “La La Land.” Fortunately, Damien Chazelle, the writer/director who made a name for himself with the indie darling “Whiplash,” has created the best of the lot.

The first two thirds of “La La Land” are quite good as it explores the relationship between two daydreaming souls who have come to L.A. to make a name for themselves, but I couldn’t help but wonder what all the award buzz was all about. Then, in the final act, the film really did start to feel like something special as it offers an ending that goes against the standard musical tropes for something a little more grounded.

The film is primarily sold on the charisma of its leads. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling might not be Broadway bound, but their performances ooze with charm and that je ne sais quoi that makes the duo so magnetic on or off the screen.

The songs are pleasant, if not overly catchy, and the dance sequences are well choreographed. The opening scene is a little campier than the rest of the film, but all’s well that ends well.

“La La Land” isn’t the weightiest of this year’s films. Still, it’s not difficult to see why the critical response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s a movie that kindly invites you in, plays the perfect host and surprises you with a parting gift as you leave. While I prefer "Moonlight" or "Loving" when it comes to my Best Picture vote, I would be perfectly content to see Damien Chazelle given the nod for Best Director.

If you’re looking for a delightful crowd pleaser, “La La Land” offers a bit of escapism without sacrificing its artistry. The stakes are fairly low, but in cinema land the world doesn’t always need saving.

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