The Member Berries are strong with La La Land, a movie-musical about dreamers in contemporary Los Angeles. Emma Stone is Mia, a barista on the Warner Brothers lot; Mia aspires to be an actress. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a nostalgic jazz pianist; Sebastian aspires to be a jazz club proprietor. The movie is divided into seasons, starting in a blistering L.A. winter. (The last notable movie about dreamers that was structured by the seasons was Requiem for a Dream; it was also stylish but its characters’ trajectories went in a different direction.) Mia and Sebastian meet twice before developing frisson and tap dancing to infatuation. Gosling and Stone are capable performers, though not outstanding; what they have is a raw chemistry that acts as a substitute for the skill of, say, Gene Kelly. Likewise, Justin Hurwitz’s music is nothing to write home about. Movie-musical fans say La La Land is pastiche in the tradition of Jacques Demy. Indeed, director Damien Chazelle is a good copycat—La La Land is impressively staged, the camerawork is dextrous, and the result is exceptionally lovely. And, unlike other Give-Me-An-Award Movies this year, it’s not a miserable slog. Once you’ve seen it, you might compare it to Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, another sumptuous movie, from 2016, that landed on a wistful note. Sigh.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White