La La Land is an earnest musical, an imperfect but memorable love story homage to song and dance films of yore.

Mia (played by Emma Stone) is a frustrated actress, facing rejection after rejection as she pursues her dreams, when she meets moody Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an equally frustrated jazz pianist in a world where even his own girlfriend says she hates jazz.

Inevitably, conflict and difficulties arise, and for a film that on the surface is full of dance, song, and joy, this is at times a surprisingly sober and even heartbreaking story, an ode to what could have been.

As a retro musical, the film is delightful and colorful, intimate and playful, as crowds or duos sing and dance their way through traffic, parties, on mountaintops, piers, and even Griffith Observatory.

Emma Stone can do no wrong, and outshines her costar as a true triple threat who can sing, act, and dance, while Gosling is a double threat (he’s really not much of a singer) who can’t match Stone’s effervescence (though he does great playing the piano and fleshes out his melancholy character well).

As fun, surprising, and reflective as this movie is, each musical number (except for a stunning solo from Stone) reminded me that it doesn’t quite live up to the “wow” factor of musicals of the past, and failed to transport me to another place. For that, there’s a single Bjork video that does it better.

Worth 5 of my 7 run-on sentences.

Rob Webster
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