La La Land is every inch the picture we were promised it would be. It’s gorgeous and sweet, romantic and heartbreaking, beautiful and honest. And best of all, all of those feelings are earned.
As the film wraps up, every single thing that’s taken us to that point becomes all the more sharp and glorious for knowing the destination at the end of this epic journey. We meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) on the freeway. The sun is beating down. The traffic is wall-to-wall. The horns are blaring. But suddenly, that cacophony becomes music to our ears and song-and-dance breaks out taking us from empathetic irritation to unexpected joy. And this is the perfect scene-setter for the film to come.
La La Land is sometimes whimsical, occasionally gritty and perpetually charming. It’s the story of dreamers living in our very real world and fighting the grind in a city of dazzling heights and shattered dreams.
Emma Stone fills Mia with vulnerability and passion and creeping doubt. She’s putting in all of the work, but her greatest comfort isn’t in getting auditions, it’s in the history that surrounds her on the lot where she acts as a barista. Meanwhile, Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is all angst and man-out-of-time cool. He’s too cool for everything around him, but he laments the fall of jazz landmarks to fusion restaurants.
Damien Chazzelle takes all of this and puts it in a blender with classic Hollywood vibrancy and aesthetic. Out comes the kind of movie they just don’t make anymore. It’s a simultaneous love letter to the Golden Age and modern realism. And it’s anchored by arguably the greatest screen pairing we’ve seen since the Golden Age.
La La Land is a picture so satisfying and and fully realized that it is actually difficult to review. What is there to say, really, about the kind of movie that reminds you why you love movies?