Mia and Sebastian are trying to realize their dreams in LA. Mia’s an aspiring actress making ends meet as a barista; Sebastian plays piano where he can, trying to save enough money to open a jazz club. But when their aspirations and their relationship don’t quite line up anymore, they must attempt to reconcile the two or decide what – or who – to let go in this new musical from writer/director Damien Chazelle, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
La-La Land is a romantic musical that has won a slew of awards, including six Oscars and seven Golden Globes, and offers not only the usual vocal numbers seen in a musical, but includes some wonderful piano and jazz-combo pieces. Stone and Gosling give excellent performances of characters torn between doing what they want and what logic tells them they should do. Mia and Seb come across as sympathetic people who make mistakes while trying to do the right thing. However, both Stone and Gosling are actors who can carry a tune, rather than actor/singers. Stone’s musical performances tend toward breathy, though the mainstream is currently infatuated with this sound, so it may not be a drawback for everyone. She finally shows us what she can really do and gives listeners goosebumps during “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” near the end of the movie. Gosling doesn’t get much of a chance to shine vocally, but has plenty of time in his role as a pianist to show off his skills, acquired specifically for this movie. The bittersweet ending is remarkable for its realism and maturity, instead of wrapping everything up in a perfect movie-bow. Overall, La-La Land is a moving story well worth watching, but some viewers might need a little ice cream afterward to help it go down.