IN ANY GIVEN YEAR of reviewing movies, I spend a lot of time sitting through money-covered crap struggling to discern why it was greenlit in the first place. When the only good thing about my evening is that the cost of a kids’ movie snack pack never seems to go up, I remind myself that watching garbage is the price I pay for the few movies I actually like, and the even fewer I genuinely love.
You guys, I LOVED La La Land, and you will too.
Don’t be afraid of it just because it’s a musical about a struggling actress (Emma Stone) and a pretentious jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) who meet and fall in love and sing and dance in a romanticized, cartoony LA. Yeah, it’s splashy and grandiose and full of hazy violet Southern California sunsets, but its emotional core is genuine. With its occasional forays into alternate realities and dreamy, keyed-up atmosphere, La La Land plays sort of like a cheerful Mulholland Dr., but shares none of that movie’s cynicism.
Directed by Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle, there’s a lot of whimsy happening in La La Land, but its depiction of what it’s like to struggle because you’ve made an impractical career choice is relentless and honest, saving it from becoming the heavy-handed exercise in unrestrained sentiment you know it would’ve been had Baz Luhrman gotten anywhere near it. Instead, it’s a romantic movie that doesn’t feel completely artificial—in spite of at least one instance of adult humans flying because they are so in love. Take it from shriveled-hearted me, the Unearned Sentiment Police: La La Land is a grand, over-the-top, razzly-dazzly love story that won’t make you puke one bit. It might even help you forget the horrors of reality, however momentarily—and after the year we’ve had, that practically makes La La Land a public service.