We’re just moments away from the official Telluride lineup being announced but La La Land has been seen and the early reviews are in. The most enthusiastic response is from the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw who gives the film five stars. Bradshaw fell for it completely:
[quotes quotes_style=”bquotes” quotes_pos=”center”]The seasons of a love affair are played out beguilingly in this wonderfully sweet, sad, smart new movie from Damien Chazelle – the director of Whiplash – and the Venice film festival could not have wished for a bigger sugar rush to start the proceedings. 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.
To be honest, this is where an audience might find its tolerance for this picture’s unironic bounce tested, coming as it does right at the top of the show. It takes a little while to get acclimatised, and for the first five minutes, the showtune feel to the musical score might make you feel you’re watching a Broadway adaptation. But very soon I was utterly absorbed by this movie’s simple storytelling verve and the terrific lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who are both excellent – particularly Stone, who has never been better, her huge doe eyes radiating wit and intelligence when they’re not filling with tears. Gosling, for his part, has a nice line in sardonic dismissal to conceal how hurt he is or how in love he is.[/quotes]
HR’s Todd McCarthy:
[quotes quotes_style=”bquotes” quotes_pos=”center”]Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to ‘Whiplash’ is an LA-set musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a couple of Hollywood strivers who fall in love.
If you’re going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle’s daring and beautiful La La Land, it will probably be at first sight. There’s never been anything quite like the opening sequence: Traffic is at a standstill on the high, curving ramp that connects the 105 freeway to the 110 leading to downtown Los Angeles. Most of the cars are occupied only by single drivers, who are all listening to different music. But after a moment, instead of just sitting there simmering, somebody gets out and starts singing and dancing. Soon someone else does the same. Then another, and yet another, until a bad mood has been replaced by a joyous one as the road becomes the scene for a giant musical production number set to an exuberant big-band beat.
Aside from wondering how the filmmakers managed the logistics of pulling off such an audacious location shoot, lovers of classic musicals will be swept away by this utterly unexpected and original third feature from Damien Chazelle (opening this year’s Venice Film Festival). From a commercial point of view, the looming question for this Summit/Lionsgate release, set for December openings, is whether younger audiences will buy into the traditional conceits that Chazelle has revitalized, as well as into the jazz and lyrical song-and-dance numbers that fill the soundtrack.
Only foreign film connoisseurs of a certain age will realize that the writer-director’s true inspiration here stems not as much from vintage Hollywood musicals (although allusions to them abound) as from the late French director Jacques Demy’s two landmark 1960s musicals with Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort — especially the latter, which was far more dance and jazz-oriented. Although serious romantic longing and love’s poignant transience underpin the narratives for both Demy and Chazelle, both films share a breezy lightness of tone that keeps their narratives skipping along.[/quotes]
And Kohn’s review – slightly less enthusiastic but mostly won over:
[quotes quotes_style=”bquotes” quotes_pos=”center”]It’s been decades since a studio produced the kind of colorful musical fantasy that “La La Land” so affectionately salutes, but writer-director Damien Chazelle is the guy for the job. Before his breakout drama “Whiplash,” Chazelle made the 2009 microbudget “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” a gentle, scrappy, song-and-dance tale of an aspiring jazz trumpeter and the woman who falls for him. That movie now looks like the dry run for this grander spectacle, his third feature — another story about singing, dancing lovers struggling with modern concerns. Carved from the legacies of Vincente Minnelli, Jacques Demy, and so many others, “La La Land” is magically in tune with its reference points even as falls a few notes short of their greatness.
No matter how obvious its antecedents, “La La Land” makes it clear that this film is a serious upgrade. As the opening black-and-white Cinemascope screen opens up to glorious color, the movie kicks off an opening number set in the middle of a deadlocked Los Angeles freeway. Chazelle’s camera spins around hordes of bodies smiling and flipping along the road… until the sprightly song comes to a close, and they shrink back into their vehicles. That oscillation continues throughout, as “La La Land” juts between everyday occurrences and lively outbursts without slowing down.[/quotes]
La La Land: I'm honestly crying with happiness. That film no-one makes any more? Damien Chazelle just made it. #Venezia73
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) August 31, 2016
LA LA LAND is sensational. Jacques Demy for the digital age, Singin' in the Rain for the gap between romance & reality. 1st shot = all-timer
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) August 31, 2016