Written and directed by Academy Award (R) nominee Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.
We don't generally think of musicals in these terms, but, following the impersonal splashiness of the opening number, "La La Land" slowly dawns as a film of great intimacy. It's as if it were whispering to us.
The movie ends with a what-might-have-been fantasia that is one of the most emotionally moving passages I've ever seen in a musical. It's like a bluesy jazz piano chord, full of hurt and healing, that slowly fades to silence.
As good as La La Land is throughout, the last act elevates the movie considerably. And while everything here has roots elsewhere, the way Chazelle strings these notes together somehow looks and sounds fresh and new.