Film review: La La Land

Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder and Emma Stone as Mia Dolan.
Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder and Emma Stone as Mia Dolan.

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) works as a barista in between auditions, which repeatedly end in crushing rejection.

On a traffic-jammed Los Angeles freeway, she crosses paths with talented pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who reveres jazz in its purest form, but is forced to play saccharine standards by restaurant owner Bill (JK Simmons).

"I hate jazz," Mia tells Sebastian after they meet at a party in the Hollywood hills, where they share dreams for the future beneath the twinkling stars of the Californian night sky. Sebastian is convinced he can spearhead a new appreciation for music until an old classmate, Keith (John Legend), questions his devotion to masters of a bygone era.

While Mia prepares to stage her semi-autobiographical one-woman show So Long, Boulder City, Sebastian agrees to play keyboard in Keith's soulless, chart-friendly band The Messengers.

Frustrations between the couple come to a head in a fractious to and fro about artistic integrity. La La Land is a perfect marriage of directorial brio, tour-de-force performance and jaw-dropping production design. Gosling and Stone are individually luminous and electrifying as a double-act in high energy song and dance sequences.

Rating: Five stars. Cert: 12A.