I am not sure why I like La La Land, but I do. It is both a tribute to musicals of the Golden Age and a modern, bitter-sweet romantic comedy. La La Land is built around the simple and classic premise of boy meets girl. They both have dreams. They get their dreams to come true, but it is not necessarily the happy ending of the old musicals. Yet, the ending is uplifting in its way as the time flies in an impressionist tribute to the way time moves and how if La La Land were a 1940's musical it could have ended. The movie isn't that 1940's love story though, and so we remember our first loves but like time life flows onward.
Writer/Director Damien Chazelle, whose credits include the intense movie Whiplash, creates a love letter to the fanciful era of musicals like Singing in the Rain when people burst out into song. It is fun and lively and, like the musicals it pays tribute to, has a storyline that is fairly predictable. Chazelle even manages to show his love of jazz and the conflict that drives jazz as a music form just as he did in Whiplash.
The story is about the love affair between a struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). We follow them on a romp through LA as each seeks their dream. Mia dreams of becoming the great actress and Sebastian of opening a jazz club where he will renew the dying art form. While neither Gosling nor Stone are powerhouse singers or dancers, there is chemistry and magic in their performance. Emma Stone's performance is a tour de force of her talent. If her charm and big eyes don't reach you, you have no heart. Ryan Gosling is perfect as the struggling jazz artist who is torn between a modern world and the music of a past era. the music of a past era.
La La Land has the feel of a stage style musical or one of those old MGM musicals. It starts with a rather strange song and dance number on a freeway in LA that makes you wonder what on Earth have you've let yourself in for, and then draws you into its embrace. By the end, you will want to sit in your car and lean on the horn. It is one of the better movies of the season.