La La Land (5 stars)

La La Land

TIFF 2016: Emma Stone is Oscar-worthy in Damien Chazelle's magical musical

Anyone who has ever splashed through puddles in tribute to Gene Kelly or sighed with blissful contentment at Funny Face will adore La La Land. Writer-director Damien Chazelle's intoxicating homage to the classic musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age is a technical marvel and a joyous experience that you want to revisit immediately after watching it for the very first time.

Chazelle's follow-up to Whiplash emphatically underlines his mastery of filmmaking; it's an impeccably crafted musical that evokes the scope, dazzling colours and larger-than-life emotions of an M-G-M crowd-pleaser. An all-singing, all-dancing opening number staged in a traffic jam on a motorway is an immediate marker of Chazelle's audacious inventiveness, and a sign of what lies in store.

An adorable Emma Stone plays Mia, a waitress on the Warner Bros. lot and an aspiring actress, enduring the humiliation of countless futile auditions. Ryan Gosling's dapper Sebastian is a musician and jazz fanatic, determined to open his own nightclub.

Drawn together by fate, their tentative, bittersweet romance blossoms through disappointments and triumph, unfolding in a gorgeous, fairytale vision of Los Angeles that takes the breath away. This is a film in thrall to Vincente Minnelli and Jacques Demy, the feather-light elegance of Fred Astaire and the heartbreak of Judy Garland.

The cast rise to the occasion. Gosling is a goofy, idealistic charmer and Stone shows all the versatility, vulnerability and blazing talent of a young Shirley MacLaine as she sings, dances and steals your heart. Start engraving that Best Actress Oscar with her name right now.

La La Land really is as good as everyone claims. It is an irresistible, big-hearted valentine to starry-eyed dreamers and the enduring magic of the movies.

Screening as part of the Toronto International Film Festival 2016. General release from Fri 13 Jan.

La La Land

  • 5 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 6min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Damien Chazelle
  • Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, JK Simmons
  • UK release: 13 January 2017

In Los Angeles, aspiring actress Mia (Stone) falls for jazz musician Sebastian (Gosling). Audaciously inventive homage to classic movie musicals, technically wonderful and joyously emotional, with Gosling as a goofy idealistic charmer and Stone showing the versatility, vulnerability and talent of a young Shirley MacLaine.