La La Land
A coffee-shop barista and aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a frustrated jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) meet, fall in love and struggle against the dream-killing city of Los Angeles, even as their careers pull them in opposite directions. Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s movie begins as an exuberant musical comedy (with clever songs by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and ends as a bittersweet reflection on what might have been. The transition isn’t always smooth; the movie sags in the center as the songs grow sparse. But there are virtues, too—chiefly the proven screen chemistry between Stone and Gosling. (Their song-and-dance chops aren’t half-bad, either.) Linus Sandgren’s luscious cinematography is another plus, along with a pervading sweetness imparted by Chazelle’s affectionate direction. J.L.