La La Land had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, and it seems to have sang and danced its way into critics hearts.
The first reviews of the Los Angeles-set musical — the follow-up from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle — are overwhelmingly positive, with high praise for stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who play an aspiring actress and jazz musician falling in love as they struggle to make it in Hollywood.
Read on for takes on the film from those who saw it in Venice. Stateside, it’s set for a theatrical release on Dec. 2.
Pete Hammond (Deadline)
“Coming off the promise of the Oscar winning Whiplash, it will be no surprise that writer/director Damien Chazelle is a talented filmmaker, but that movie did not prepare me for the experience of seeing La La Land, his homage to the great screen musicals of French director Jacques Demy as well as MGM’s golden era. But this is too smart a movie maker to just do a simple tribute to a bygone era, his film starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is a gorgeous romantic fever dream of a musical that should hit contemporary audiences right in their sweet spot. It has been a very long time since we have seen something quite this lyrical, lovely, and most importantly, original on the screen, but at the same time it is a musical that has its feet firmly planted in the real world , even if the one up there on the wide Cinemascope screen is very stylized.”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Happily, the two leads are clearly entirely in synch with [Chazelle’s] objectives. Sebastian has a certain gruff impatience and short temper born of creative frustration, but the concern and love he feels for Mia doesn’t take long to well up. Gosling may not be a trained dancer or musician, but his moves are appealingly his own and months of piano practice have given him convincing style on the keyboards. Stone is simply a joy as the eternally aspiring actress it’s hard to believe is being passed over. Emotionally alive and able to shift gears on a dime, Stone is all the more convincing in this context as she has the kind of looks that would have been appealing in any era, particularly the 1930s and 1950s.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“It’s an unapologetically romantic homage to classic movie musicals, splashing its poster-paint energy and dream-chasing optimism on the screen. With no little audacity, La La Land seeks its own place somewhere on a continuum between Singin’ in the Rain and Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, with a hint of Alan Parker’s Fame for the opening sequence, in which a bunch of young kids with big dreams, symbolically stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway leading to Los Angeles, get out of their cars and stage a big dance number.”
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Eric Kohn (Indiewire)
“At its best, La La Land probes the irony of its existence, celebrating the greatness of a bygone era in the context of changing times. ‘That’s LA,’ Sebastian concludes. ‘They worship everything and they value nothing.’ But that doesn’t stop him from getting fired up about the underlying power of classic jazz. ‘You can’t hear it,’ he implores Mia. ‘You have to see it.’ To that end, La La Land succeeds in making its sweet imagery sing, particularly with the sensational finale. In a wordless explosion of lights and shadows, Chazelle reignites the movie with fresh context that forces it to get real. Here, he arrives at the wrenching conclusion that even the most vibrant fantasy eventually must fade to black.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“TCM addicts will swoon over that traffic-jam number, not to mention a dance sequence that delightfully defies gravity. The vocal duets between Stone and Gosling are charming even though they both have singing voices that might diplomatically be called ‘naturalistic.’ (Similarly, the songs by composer Justin Hurwitz and Broadway lyricists Pasek and Paul aren’t traditional show-stoppers, but they sneak up on you by the second reprise.) … Gosling and Stone’s powerful chemistry is as palpable as it was in Crazy Stupid Love — they were that film’s sole selling point — and each of them conveys their character’s love of the arts and drive to succeed.”
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“La La Land isn’t a masterpiece (and on some level it wants to be). Yet it’s an exciting ramble of a movie, ardent and full of feeling, passionate but also exquisitely — at times overly — controlled. It winds up swimming in melancholy, yet its most convincing pleasures are the moments when it lifts the audience into a state of old-movie exaltation, leading us to think, ‘What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again.’”