La La Land

2hrs 8mins | Rated M | Offensive language

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock

"It's an iridescent sparkle that lasts all the way to the clever, perfect ending of a clever, perfect film." NZ Herald 5 STARS

Brilliantly written and directed by 31-year-old Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), La La Land does nothing less than jolt the movie musical to life for the 21st century. There's not an ounce of Broadway fat on this love story that raises its voice and moves its feet because it has to – because it’s the best and maybe the only way to speak its heart. You leave exhilarated by Chazelle's nonstop inventiveness, dazzled by the performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as star-crossed lovers wary of happy endings, and thrilled that they figured out how to make movies magic again. What makes La La Land such a hot miracle is how the passion for cinema and its possibilities radiates from every frame.
In blunt description, this present-day Hollywood tale doesn't seem revolutionary. Just wait. Stone plays Mia Dolan, an actress doing the barista thing at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros lot while waiting to be discovered so she can write and star in the kind of non-comic-book entertainments nobody makes any more. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian Wilder, a jazz man doing the piano bar thing while waiting for jazz to come back so he can open a club and play the music he wants to play. These impatient throwbacks meet on a clogged L.A. freeway, flipping each other the bird as their cars pass in the snarled morning traffic.
As Mia and Sebastian get past their hostilities and into frisky flirting, La La Land moves all around its titular town. Mia hears Sebastian sing the jazzy, meltingly lovely "City of Stars," a tune of his own composing that should have the Best Song Oscar in its pocket. In the Hollywood Hills, the two sway in time ("A Lovely Night"), taking their first steps toward something deeper. Sex is easy; it's love that's hard. Sharing a bond with the past, the two hit a revival house to see James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause; they then head off to Griffith Observatory, featured in Rebel, to literally dance off into the stars.
TStone and Gosling are all kinds of terrific. Though hardly born to the musical genre like, say, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, these intuitive actors make Mia and Sebastian's yearning for lyrical expression wonderfully alive and touching. They just crush it. Gosling's acting in films as diverse as The Notebook, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine and Drive, always made me think he could do anything; now I'm convinced of it. And Stone is incandescent: Instinctively understanding she's found the role of her career, she gives it all she's got and makes it seem effortless. Her final number, "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," is a plaintive showstopper. The Academy damn well better crown Stone, Gosling, Chazelle and their glorious movie with Oscar love. The sheer perfection of La La Land deserves nothing less. It sweeps you away on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance. It's the movie of the year.

Rolling Stone