‘La La Land’ review: Magical song-and-dance movie will whisk you away

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in 'La La Land.'. eOne Films

Even if you’re not a song-and-dance person, there’s something magical about La La Land.

The two leads of the film, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, help matters with their individual charisma and coupled chemistry (this isn’t their first samba together; they co-starred in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love). It’s nearly impossible to resist the compulsion to root for them as they both struggle to make it into the successful upper echelons of Hollywood.

Gosling’s character is a jazz pianist with aspirations to open his own music club, and Stone’s wide-eyed dreamer just wants to be a big actress, and reach that point where people stare at her, love her and offer her free coffee (OK, that last one is a stretch, but it does happen in the movie).

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How are Gosling and Stone at singing and dancing?

You know, surprisingly good! The beauty of their imperfections — sometimes Gosling’s limbs aren’t straight like a dancer’s, and sometimes Stone’s voice cracks and struggles — is that their characters aren’t stars… yet. It’s only appropriate that they’re not fine-tuned machines on the dance floor or at the mic. Their flaws add a level of believability to the proceedings, not to mention an underdog magnetism to their characters.

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Are the songs catchy?

Yes. That said, I can’t remember much of the lyrics, but in the moment, the songs flow and provide an energy to the film. A top tune has to be the opener (which was apparently almost cut from the movie), a huge ensemble piece featuring cars stuck in gridlock traffic on the L.A. freeway. The sheer mechanics are breathtaking, and interestingly, Stone and Gosling aren’t even involved in the number. What a fun day (or several) for those extras.

What about the supporting cast?

This movie is about Stone and Gosling’s characters. The rest of the people in the movie are merely window dressing. John Legend, who plays Gosling’s bandmate, gets an honourable mention, but he’s really just there to croon a couple songs and drag Gosling’s character out of his safety zone. It’s a testament to the two leads that it’s not necessary to have anybody else in the movie.

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How does the movie look?

It’s gorgeous. Super-saturated, sunny and colourful, the film showcases the finer side of Los Angeles. Obviously there are dark moments and the scenery adjusts as needed, but at times it feels like we’re in a time warp. When Stone and Gosling’s characters walk the movie studio lot, it’s easy to see how people can be mesmerized by the idea of fame, of existing in a construct. One minute, the duo is looking at a gorgeous European backdrop and then someone yells “Cut!” and a bunch of set-hands and cast members start arguing about who did what wrong. The illusion is broken, and so easily broken, it’s a metaphorical warning for anyone seeking such a fleeting dream.

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But hey, the beauty of the backdrop is seducing, and why both characters seek fulfillment through their art forms.

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I’ve heard this is getting Oscar buzz. Is that true?

Hands-down, La La Land will rack up the awards in 2017. Expect nominations and wins for both Stone and Gosling, since a) there isn’t much competition this year, and b) there aren’t many feel-good films in contention; La La Land is the first movie in a while to hit all the sweet notes, but not give the audience everything it wants — yet another thing going for it. This isn’t formulaic, either. What you expect to happen at the end probably won’t. Consider that your warning.

So what’s the bottom line?

Feel-good and enough to drive hardy critics to tears (I saw it with my own eyes), La La Land is definitely one of the best movies of the year. If you’re a fan of musicals, this will have your toes tapping throughout, and even if you’re not, there’s plenty to enjoy in this cinematic treat.

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La La Land opens in theatres on Dec. 25.

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