"Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, which opened the Venice Film Festival on a voluptuous high note of retro glamour and style, is the most audacious big-screen musical in a long time, and—irony of ironies—that’s because it’s the most traditional," argues Variety's Owen Gleiberman. "In his splashy, impassioned, shoot-the-moon third feature, Chazelle, the 31-year-old writer-director of Whiplash, pays meticulous homage to the look and mood and stylized trappings of the ardent Hollywood musicals of the 40s and, especially, the 50s: glorious soundstage spectacles of star-spangled color and rapture. A lot of people still find vintage musicals corny or think (mistakenly) that they’re quaint. Yet the form remains stubbornly alive in the bones of our culture, which is why it feels so right in La La Land to see a daring filmmaker go whole hog in re-creating a lavish neo-studio-system musical, replete with starry nights and street lamps lighting up the innocence of soft-shoe romance, and two people who were meant for each other literally dancing on air."

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw "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."

"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," notes Indiewire's Eric Kohn. "That movie now looks like the dry run for this grander spectacle… 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."

"In just one of countless aesthetic decisions that have gone into making the film the sophisticated confection that it is, many of the musical numbers have been shot at magic hour, which both softens and intensifies the colors, as well as the beauty and romanticism of the mostly real-world Los Angeles settings," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "The city has rarely looked this gorgeous in films, a credit to the director's romantic imagination as well as to the technical expertise of Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle), who has superbly composed the film's constant movement in the ultra-widescreen 2.52 x 1 aspect ratio."

"It has been a very long time since we have seen something quite this lyrical, lovely, and most importantly, original on the screen," declares Pete Hammond at Deadline.


"Moving airily through the seasons," writes Screen's Fionnuala Halligan, "La La Land acquires its poignant topnote through Epilogue, a late what-if thread which is beautifully played out by Chazelle and matches precisely the themes of Park Bench with its lingering regret and longing. A clear line runs through Chazelle’s three features, each hammering away at his theme: music, love and art, can they live together?"

Update: At the Playlist, Jessica Kiang gives La La Land a solid A: "The plot, as much as there is one, is slight, tracking the relationship between jazz pianist and purist jazz fan Seb (Gosling) and aspiring actress, actual barista Mia (Stone), from their first un-cute meets, through them getting together (easy) and staying together (difficult). On one level it’s remarkably low-stakes, and there’s little outright conflict between these two fundamentally lovely and decent people (except for one brilliantly written and performed dinner scene). But onto this slim, timeless and infinitely relatable structure, Chazelle weaves a story that is as replete with ideas and insights as it is with delicious production and costume design (David Wasco and Mary Zohres respectively), and witty, soulful songwriting (from composer Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)."

Updates, 9/1: "Ryan Gosling is Seb, a brooding pianist and jazz purist who dreams of running his own nightclub," explains Time Out's Dave Calhoun, "while Emma Stone plays Mia, a more sunny studio-lot barista and aspiring actor who dreams of putting on her own plays. The film follows them from winter to fall and back to winter as they meet, argue, flirt, fall in love and face a growing conflict between their personal passions and romantic hopes. There are tender and imaginative moments to die for."

"These two have been wonderful together before, in Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013), but in La La Land, as a duo they’re close to perfection," finds Time's Stephanie Zacharek. "This movie is purely for them, and they revel in it. You can see it in the way they move and in their singing, too: Stone’s voice is clear and light, like a sliver of morning sun. Gosling’s is soft and dusky, like a moonbeam. They meet in the middle, but not without their share of heartache. La La Land is both a love letter to a confounding and magical city and an ode to the idea of the might-have-been romance, in all its piercing sweetness."

And from the Telegraph's Robbie Collin: "Stone and Gosling are two of the most naturally sweet stars working today, but together they’re like Diet Coke and Mentos—their chemistry actually feels chemical, or perhaps part of a new branch of particle physics that conducts invisible emotional lightning straight from their faces to your heart."

"In the way that French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Demy made the locales of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort into workaday natural settings that were also vividly colored backdrops for sudden bursts of music, the Los Angeles of La La Land doesn’t spare us the traffic jams, but it also allows its characters to open the back of a stalled truck to reveal a jazz combo," writes TheWrap's Alonso Duralde. "The final segment, a fantastical exploration of roads not taken, ranks with the poignant ending of Umbrellas, and that’s high praise for lovers of glamorous cinematic melancholy."

"At the climax of Mia and Sebastian’s first dance together—perhaps the film’s finest sequence—the camera cranes up, just like it did when Gene Kelly spun around in Singin’ in the Rain," writes Rory O'Connor at the Film Stage. "This is no pastiche. That Stanley Donen masterpiece is over six decades old. The beauty of La La Land is showing that, amongst other things, the combination of bodies in motion, a craning camera, and soaring strings can be just as electric after all those years."

"It's an oft-stated theory that the original musicals burst onto the scene during the depression, giving some much needed color and joy to life," notes John Bleasdale at CineVue. "In our current world of terrorism and Trumpian insanity, we can do with some of that Technicolor escapism and it doesn't come much better than this."


For Variety, Kristopher Tapley talks with composer Justin Hurwitz "about the process as he and Chazelle sought to turn something traditional and classic on its ear."

Update, 9/4: "La La Land begins with such an ecstatic rush of joy—and ends with such a gloriously bittersweet flourish—that you kinda can’t blame the film for sagging a bit in the middle," writes Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson. It's "sad and happy, funny and romantic, technically dazzling. But, like the classic musicals of old that the film pays homage to, La La Land is not perfect. There are moments, though, when it comes close, so soaring and gorgeous that tears spring to the eyes. And that might be enough."

Updates, 9/6: "La La Land is both an example of and an argument for the uniqueness of movies," writes A.O. Scott in a dispatch from Telluride back to the New York Times. "At 31, Mr. Chazelle doesn’t just want to summon the old magic. He also wants to modernize it."

"La La Land shows the ambition of Whiplash meeting the melancholia of Casablanca," writes Diana Dabrowska for Cinema Scope. "There, Humphrey Bogart had to make a fateful decision about his beloved’s faith, and the same thing happens here. Chazelle doesn’t just reference Curtiz’s classic—he updates it for a generation too realistic to decide that they’ll always have Paris in the end."

Update, 9/8: Nigel M. Smith interviews Chazelle for the Guardian.

Update, 9/10: Emma Stone's won a Volpi Cup, i.e., best performance by an actress.

Updates, 9/13: For Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club, La La Land is "a film both energized and limited by its commitment to movie musical tradition," one that's "sometimes more concerned with synthesizing lost Hollywood magic than with making any of its own…. It asks what the characters of a Cinemascope musical would have to dream about, and answers with a finale that lifts the film to a higher plane of wish fulfillment and melancholy."

In his Venice report for Film Comment, editor Nicolas Rapold finds that "the sonic shambles of the film’s opening number (a traffic-jam hoedown) set a low bar and display a tin ear, and the artistic-underdog story told by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling felt more and more like pandering. Instead of being gleefully transported by any given number, I began to cringe when a character could clearly feel a song coming on."

"Not once during La La Land do you feel like you're watching red-blooded characters, so much as you are the good-natured, tirelessly committed actors playing them," writes Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door. "Hollowness results, and a crucial piece of the movie-musical illusion goes missing. Melodies are being sung, but the impassioned souls from which they're supposed to spring are absent."

But Tina Hassannia warns her readers at Movie Mezzanine that "you won’t be able to stop yourself from falling helplessly in love with this over-the-top rom-com."

"It's a movie for people who love darkened theaters, who love movies, who love movie stars, and who love giving themselves over to other people's art without a pause for cynicism," writes NPR's Linda Holmes.


Updates, 9/14: Jada Yuan at Vulture: "This is a movie musical with the smarts to cast natural performers who actually know how to sing and dance—Gosling's once again proving how he got to be in the Mickey Mouse Club, while Stone is fresh off of honing her chops as Cabaret's Sally Bowles on Broadway—and that believes that the form doesn't need to be reinvented with extreme close-ups (ahem, Les Miz) or turning every number into a dream sequence (ahem, Chicago)."

"With infectious enthusiasm, charismatic leads, gorgeous songs, vibrant colors, and dazzling camerawork, La La Land restores the original movie musical to its former glory," writes Matt Singer at ScreenCrush.

"Believe the hype," agrees Flavorwire's Jason Bailey. More from Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com.

Updates, 9/16: "La La Land’s tunnel vision of cheer is a winking steamroller, an avalanche of tinsel and cellophane and Muzak," writes Fernando F. Croce in the Notebook. "For a fable full of gentle dreamers, its touch is relentlessly aggressive…. It’s designed to not so much seduce audiences as pummel them into submission. Swoon, goddamnit, swoon!"

"As much as La La Land evokes the past, the one obstacle Mia and Sebastian's relationship faces is contemporary," writes Scott Tobias for GQ. "They both have big dreams they haven't begun to realize, and they could be getting in each other's way…. That trace of uncertainty and melancholy—of time and fate as a wedge as well as a bond—may not have the profound depth of a Demy musical, but it broadens the film's emotional palette considerably. Otherwise, it would be relentlessly sweet, like a big dog licking your face for two hours."

Update, 9/18: For Rolling Stone's David Fear, "this waking Technicolor dream makes you feel like you've just binged three weeks worth of TCM programming in the best possible way, and you have not lived until you've seen a Los Angeles freeway turned into a Broadway-style stage or watched the film's lovelorn couple literally waltz among the stars. Mondo swooning, this."

Update, 11/24: "The first time I watched Damien Chazelle’s musical, La La Land, I thought a lot about how it worked, about its form, his craft and how the lickable candy-colored costumes bring to mind both M&M’s and Jacques Demy," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "When I went to see La La Land again, I was in a terrible state, and this time I just fell into it, gratefully. I surrendered. Afterward, I realized that this must have been what it was like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during the Great Depression. In La La Land, Mr. Chazelle has a shot at something that has eluded auteurist titans like Peter Bogdanovich and Francis Ford Coppola: to make musicals matter again."


Updates, 12/8: In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Chazelle discusses a handful of musicals that have influenced La La Land and, as Vikram Murthi reports at IndieWire, Fandango has asked him to list his top ten Los Angeles movies.

"La La Land is a virtuoso performance by a very proficient young director… who knows exactly what he wants to do and knows how to go about doing it," writes Nick Pinkerton for Reverse Shot. "I suspect that he’ll be a name to watch for some time to come, and his third feature suggests that he has some definite ideas about popular moviemaking. Would I maybe loathe it a little less if it weren’t so unimpeachably competent?"

"The real tension in La La Land is between ambition and love, and perhaps the most up-to-date thing about it is the way it explores that ancient conflict," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. "A cynical but not inaccurate way to put this would be to describe it as a careerist movie about careerism. But that would be to slight Mr. Chazelle’s real and uncomfortable insight, which is that the drive for professional success is, for young people at the present time, both more realistic and more romantic than the pursuit of boy-meets-girl happily-ever-after. Love is contingent. Art is commitment."

"Call it focus or early career stagnation, but Damien Chazelle has found a pretty good wheelhouse to tool around in," writes Angelo Muredda at Movie Mezzanine. "Though the most obvious thematic through-line of his budding filmography is his heroes’ quixotic pursuit of one of the most out-of-time forms of popular music, Chazelle isn’t a chronicler of jazz devotees so much as as the patron saint of one-track narcissists, with even his newest and most palatable confection defined largely by its emotional aloofness toward the collateral damage that self-serving artists leave in their wake."

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane has his reservations, but grants that "it’s a kind of miracle that La La Land even exists, and my advice would be to ignore the backward-glancing, fault-hunting addicts of the genre, like me. Catch the film on the largest screen you can find, with a sound system to match, even if that means journeying all day. Have a drink beforehand. And, whatever you do, don’t wait for a DVD or a download. The mission of this movie will be fulfilled only if it is seen by those—especially kids—who have never met a grownup musical, at the cinema, and who may not know what busy thrills can bloom, without recourse to violence, from the simplest things. The sun ignites. The song explodes. Boy meets girl."

"Like the film’s central romance, every element of La La Land is bound up in a referentiality that largely precludes the outpourings of emotion we come to musicals for," writes Christopher Gray at Slant.

For the Voice's Alan Scherstuhl, this is "joyous, openhearted filmmaking in the service of wan songs, bloodless singing, and dancing that we too often can't quite see—we just have to take the movie's word that it's great."

"La La Land is as delightful and magical as you’ve heard," writes Tim Grierson for the New Republic, "but it’s also smarter, tougher, and sadder than its moonstruck trailer might suggest."

For RogerEbert.com, Nick Allen interviews Chazelle and Rosemarie DeWitt.


Updates, 12/14: "This fine romance really takes off when Stone, a vision in wafty 30s frocks, straps on her dancing shoes and whirls her beau around town," writes Ella Taylor for NPR. :And who'd have thought, when Gosling first blazed off the screen as an angry young Jew turned neo-Nazi skinhead in Henry Bean's acclaimed but little-seen 2001 drama, The Believer, that he'd end up as a broody romantic lead with surly charm to burn? Though La La Land doffs its cap primarily to Singin' in the Rain, Gosling doesn't do genial with any degree of comfort. More Cary Grant than Gene Kelly, his Sebastian combines grumpy with fast-talking suave, which makes him a perfect match for Stone's peppery but tender-hearted Rosalind Russell."

The New Yorker's Richard Brody finds that "Chazelle strives to impress, to wow, to dazzle—but not to inspire; his musical ideas and visual sensibility are jolting neither in their surfaces nor in their substance, neither in their action nor in their images; they close off the imagination rather than opening it."

"But for all its borrowing and bricolage, La La Land never feels like a backward-looking or unoriginal work," counters Slate's Dana Stevens. "Even when not every one of its risks pays off the way that first song does, this movie is bold, vital, funny, and alive."

"La La Land feels obsessed in its construction that it alone can save the genre," writes Peter Labuza at LAist. "But perfection has a price, and La La Land's constant swooning and 'look at me!' attitude is downright exhausting. It's the cinematic equivalent of being friends with Anne Hathaway."

"For the 31-year-old Chazelle, who broke through with the mechanical and overheated Whiplash (2013), La La Land is a big leap forward," allows Michael Sragow, writing for Film Comment. "His filmmaking exuberance and the energy and sweetness of his two stars give this thin soup considerable tang."

"Chazelle has reinvigorated the big-screen musical by embracing the present while paying tribute to the past, by balancing irony and innocence, novelty and nostalgia," writes the Atlantic's Christopher Orr. "At one point in the film, Sebastian is asked, 'How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?' La La Land itself provides an answer."

"If the classic musicals were set in a prelapsarian world, the characters innocent of original sin, then the basic gravitational law of this world would be upended when the characters were allowed to partake of the forbidden fruit," writes Brian Tran for Brooklyn Magazine. "The sexual revolution—paralleled onscreen by the dissolution of the Hays Code and, of course, Method Acting (premised on the surfacing of latent desires, embodied by the raw sex of Brando)—offered a readily available outlet for pent up romantic feeling, slackening the tightly wound spring ticking inside every musical number. As La La Land is a modern tale, our couple inevitably become lovers, and unsurprisingly, the film starts to lose its magic after this turn."

At Slate, Aisha Harris offers a guide to the classics La La Land nods to.


Updates, 12/15: "Justin Hurwitz’s original songs at first struck me… as a collection of B-side standards, exhilarating in the moment but leveled out into sameness as he reproduces snatches of melody throughout the score," writes Kimberley Jones. "And yet—and maybe this is cheating—I’ve had a screener of the film for three weeks now, and I keep hitting play, even if I’m just doing the dishes, because I want to get back there again, and now I’m waking up humming his melodies and zoning out in traffic remembering how my ear excited to a vibraphone, full strings luxuriating from double stop to pizzicato, two flutes as they herald a reverie."

Also in the Austin Chronicle, Richard Whittaker talks with producers Fred Berger and Jordan Horowitz, who says that "the knowledge that we would never make the movie liberated us to fantasize about the biggest, most epic version of an original musical."

"Take it from shriveled-hearted me, the Unearned Sentiment Police," advises Megan Burbank in the Stranger. "La La Land is a grand, over-the-top, razzly-dazzly love story that won’t make you puke one bit. It might even help you forget the horrors of reality, however momentarily—and after the year we’ve had, that practically makes La La Land a public service."

For Kelly Vance in the East Bay Express, "in its best moments, in those quiet scenes when Stone flashes her eyes at no one in particular, or when the essential loneliness of Hollywood asserts itself—the H'wood of Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, or Elmore Leonard—Chazelle's dream of finding love in Los Angeles can be seen briefly, in between the echoes of At Long Last Love, as the gentlest of tone poems. If we peer closely enough at La La Land, it's there."

"I believe people when they say they are moved or enchanted by the film; it just didn’t move or enchant me," writes Robert Horton for the Seattle Weekly. "The skill on display is undeniable, but the charm feels calculated, or second-hand."

Updates, 12/17: "La La Land is to the American musical film what Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) was to the small-time gangster movie," writes Amy Taubin at 4Columns. "Like Scorsese, Chazelle inhabits, with joy and an absence of self-consciousness, the historical language of his chosen Hollywood genre and brings it into the present moment with an assist from master samplers of the old-time but still vital French New Wave. Allusions abound: buoyant, black-and-white Fred and Ginger hoofer flicks; Vincente Minnelli’s Technicolor Cinemascope dazzlers; Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola’s ungainly revamps; and thrilling French re-imaginings by Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy, and Chantal Akerman. Flawed though it is, La La Land deserves a place in this largely glorious company."

"The most salient thing about the musical numbers here is how they figure as interruptions to misery and diverse irritations and frustrations—interruptions that are typically interrupted in turn by the hell of a freeway traffic jam or the anguish of a failed audition," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum. "This is what makes the singing and dancing seem absolutely necessary, not merely a simple flight from unpleasantness."


Update, 12/19: "'Mandatory fun' were the first words I scribbled in my notebook after sitting through Damien Chazelle’s oppressively whimsical throwback," writes Sean Burns. "This year’s The Artist, La La Land is another hollow exercise striving to be a simulacrum of a thing while pretty much missing the whole point of what it’s trying to replicate."

Updates, 12/21: "My heart goes out to Chazelle because of his desires; it sinks at how he’s compromised them." Stuart Klawans in the Nation: " If you’re going to have Ryan Gosling rhapsodize about the excitement of jazz, you ought to play the audience the real stuff…. When I got home, I found that I couldn’t blast away the blandness with anything too restrained, like Art Farmer and Benny Golson. I had to resort to Mingus."

"The wayward side effect of casting Gosling as this jazz whisperer is that La La Land becomes a Trojan horse white-savior film," argues Ira Madison III at MTV. "Much like Matt Damon with ancient China in The Great Wall or Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, in La La Land, the fate of a minority group depends on the efforts of a well-intentioned white man: Gosling's character wants to play freestyle jazz instead of the Christmas jingles he’s been hired to perform because, damn it, if the people can’t hear real jazz, then it’s going to cease to exist."

"That La La Land is not irritating as hell, that it is instead confoundingly wonderful (and, OK, a tiny bit twee), is one of those mysteries audiences can contend with months after first seeing it," writes Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed. "Maybe it’s because the film reveals itself to be as much about the limits of nostalgia as it is an exercise in it."

For Vulture, David Marchese talks with Chazelle "about the relationship between his films and jazz, the challenge of overcoming nostalgia, and why jazz lost its popularity."

Update, 1/4: "If Whiplash is a sadomasochistic love story, La La Land is as vanilla as they come," writes Morgan Leigh Davies for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Update, 1/6: For Ian Barr at 4:3, "it’s Dancer in the Dark rather than its more distant forebearers that La La Land brings to mind. The two films have the same tendency toward coyness, in reducing a genre with a rich, expansive history and potential for great emotional nuance to an easy shorthand for their characters’ misplaced hope. Like von Trier’s polarizing and polarized 2000 film, La La Land is (implicitly, at least) conceived as a musical for audiences who don’t like musicals—or more specifically, for audiences who will only accept the unreality of the genre when it’s at the expense of characters that pay the price for accepting an unreality themselves."


Updates, 1/8: "It's true that jazz is an African American creation," writes Glenn Kenny, "but it's also true that, much more so than with rhythm and blues or rock and roll, that whites, from Mezz Mezzrow to Bix Beiderbecke to the Boswell Sisters, were Present At Its Various Creations. It's kind of funny to read writers who wouldn't be able to make it through Side A of Monkey Pockie Boo get haughty about this."

For Tom Carson in Playboy, "starting with the way it turns a derisive nickname for L.A. into cause for celebration, La La Land is the most eloquent movie yet made about the idea of Los Angeles, a place that’s always been as much an idea as a reality anyway. You know, just like the rest of the U.S., only more so."

Update, 1/10: For Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films, the opening number "immediately lays down a template that the rest of La La Land follows studiously: studious approximation of classic musical style served up like the coup of the century, but which on close examination proves to be all sizzle and no steak."

Update, 1/11: "Chazelle is heavily reliant on visual references, some vague and some blatant, from musical glory days," writes Matthew Kennedy for Bright Lights. "There is some originality in this orgy of borrowing, with easy references to touch screens, cell phones, and an interracial marriage, but all with a constant backward orientation. La La Land tries to be so stale it looks fresh, from its opening CinemaScope logo to its MGM style The End closing shot."

Updates, 1/12: "When we say we have to do something, do we mean we can’t help doing it or just that we want to?" asks Michael Wood in the London Review of Books. "Is it an urgent way of saying what we wish for, or is it just a spoilt or petulant announcement? Both La La Land and Chazelle’s earlier film Whiplash (2014) have these questions at their heart, and more especially the part that they play in American mythologies of success."

"Perhaps it shouldn’t rate a mention," notes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, "but Seb and Mia aren’t shown having sex; there isn’t even a scene in which the camera tactfully absents itself from a steamy prelude. There is a kiss. And you see them living together. But, unlike any other kind of Hollywood movie, La La Land never needs to insist on its leads continuing to fancy each other. All its sensuality is projected upwards and outwards: into dance, into song, into the complex drama of their life choices pulling them apart."

Updates, 1/16: "At times," writes Mark Kermode in the Observer, "La La Land resembles the missing link between the nostalgic creakiness of Woody Allen’s throwback musical Everyone Says I Love You and the futuristic fluidity of Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi adventure Gravity (not least during a swooning fantasy sequence in the iconic Griffith Observatory). The colors are a symphony of rich reds, gorgeous greens, beautiful blues and scrumptious yellows, while the LA locations combine the street-smart choices of Jim McBride’s Breathless with the strange nocturnal mysteries of David Lynch."

For the Creative Review, Eliza Williams talks with producer Marc Platt and music director Marius de Vries about the film's making.

Updates, 1/19: Writing for the American Cinematheque, Scott Nye traces the influence of Jacques Demy.

In the TLS, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst suggests that "the real love affair at the heart of this film isn’t between the two leads; it’s between Damien Chazelle and the history of cinema."

And Noel Vera adds that "on one hand the classics help adds a nostalgic glow to his picture; on the other audiences might be too distracted by love for those films to look kindly on this one."

Updates, 1/23: In his latest entry, David Bordwell does not set out "to denounce this ambitious, agreeable film. I’m more interested in asking how La La Land accords with the craft of studio musicals and Demy’s efforts. I’m also interested in tracing its affinity with a third tradition of song-and-dance: the Broadway show. Along all three dimensions, I hope to take Shklovsky’s advice and ask about craft. La La Land is both derivative and original. Actually, most movies are, though in various proportions."

"Compared with the blank pastiche of films such as Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Chicago (2002), which approach the perils and promises of fame in a knowing play of surfaces, La La Land sentimentally resurrects the démodé genre of the musical for its wholesome hopefulness and choreographed joy," writes Erika Balsom for Sight & Sound. "After postmodernism’s much-touted waning of affect, here sincerity is on the rise."

Updates, 4/26: "Either America has forgotten how to make uplifting films so deeply that a work like La La Land is, despite its uplifting façade, only a symptom of this malaise," writes Dan Golding, "or we have forgotten how to critically appraise such films without competing for the deepest and hardest cuts. Or maybe both. Such a form of memory loss is certainly appropriate for a film that takes a dreamy, old-fashioned nickname for Los Angeles as its title: 'La-La Land,' a dismissive, half-joking swipe at a part of America that might seem to enjoy existing in another state of mind."

Also in Senses of Cinema, Billy Stevenson: "As a musical about the present that is set in predominantly white enclaves of a largely African American and Hispanic city, there is inevitably something a bit suspect about La La Land’s agenda. Of course, white people often make films for other white people, and the lack of diversity in Hollywood is something that affects many directors. Still, the fact that La La Land so conspicuously brands itself as a film 'about' diversity makes its emphatic whiteness a bit confusing."

The 2016 fall film festival indexes: Venice, Telluride and Toronto.