“La La Land” is one of this season’s most-anticipated awards contender. Directed by Oscar-nominated Damien Chazelle, the visionary behind “Whiplash,” the romantic musical stars Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts.
The film kicked off the Venice International Film Festival and has so far swept critics off their feet.
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash,” “an ode to classic musicals that captures their fun, if not their greatness.” Giving the film a B-grade, he writes, “‘La La Land’ succeeds in making its sweet imagery sing, particularly with the sensational finale. In a wordless explosion of lights and shadows, Chazelle reignites the movie with fresh context that forces it to get real.”
Owen Gleiberman of Variety calls the film, one of the “most audacious big-screen musical in a long time.” He adds that the musical “isn’t a masterpiece (and on some level it wants to be). Yet it’s an elating ramble of a movie, ardent and full of feeling, passionate but also exquisitely controlled. It winds up swimming in melancholy, yet its most convincing pleasures are the moments when it lifts the audience into a state of old-movie exaltation, leading us to think, ‘What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again.’”
“Not perfect, but dazzling and distinctive all the same,” is The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy’s bottom line. “If you’re going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle’s daring and beautiful ‘La La Land,’ it will probably be at first sight. There’s never been anything quite like the opening sequence.” Praising Stone for her role, he adds that she is a “joy as the eternally aspiring actress…Emotionally alive and able to shift gears on a dime, Stone is all the more convincing in this context as she has the kind of looks that would have been appealing in any era, particularly the 1930s and 1950s.”
Deadline’s Pete Hammond agrees with the previous critics and calls the film “a gorgeous romantic fever dream of a musical that should hit contemporary audiences right in their sweet spot.” Really having enjoyed the picture he adds, “We live in hard times, but this is a movie worth savoring, something that entertains, enlightens and makes us feel good about being alive.”
“The musical is as malleable and eclectic a genre as any other, and Chazelle reminds us how effectively it can be applied to intimate moments as well as huge ones,” notes Alonso Duralde of The Wrap. “Gosling and Stone’s powerful chemistry is as palpable as it was in ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ — they were that film’s sole selling point — and each of them conveys their character’s love of the arts and drive to succeed.”
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian was definitely a fan of the musical, writing: “It’s an unapologetically romantic homage to classic movie musicals, splashing its poster-paint energy and dream-chasing optimism on the screen… ‘La La Land’ is such a happy, sweet-natured movie – something to give you a vitamin-D boost of sunshine.”