'La La Land' wins over Venice Film Festival: Will Toronto like it?

The new movie 'La La Land,' which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is winning raves at the Venice Film Festival. The film is the newest to feature song-and-dance numbers following the popularity of movies like 'Into the Woods' and 'Les Misérables.'

Dale Robinette/Summit Entertainment/AP
'La La Land' stars Emma Stone (l.) and Ryan Gosling (r.).

A dreamlike musical is quickly becoming one of the hits of the Venice Film Festival as critics embrace “La La Land,” the newest film by “Whiplash” director Damien Chazelle and possibly the latest song-and-dance fest to become an acclaimed hit. 

“Land” stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and made its debut at the Venice Film Festival, with the movie also scheduled to screen at the Toronto Film Festival later this month. The movie will open in a limited release on Dec. 2. 

The film tells the story of a piano player (Mr. Gosling) who becomes romantically involved with a wannabe actress (Ms. Stone). It also stars J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Mr. Chazelle, who also wrote the film, was nominated for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars for his work on “Whiplash” and his movie was nominated for Best Picture.

The movie has received raves so far at the Venice Film Festival, with Time writer Stephanie Zacharek calling it “dazzling.… Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are close to perfection … glorious, open-hearted.” Ms. Zacharek writes that the music is also part of what won her over, calling the ditties “beautifully staged and choreographed, and the mix of styles is playful.” 

Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter also praised the film’s two leads and the music in particular, writing that “once you see Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone go into their moves here, it's as pleasurable to accept them in such roles as it once might have been to embrace, say, Gene Kelly and Shirley MacLaine.... Composer Justin Hurwitz … has delivered an LP's worth of buoyant, charming tunes,” though Mr. McCarthy wrote that “the film loses some of its edge in this final stretch and arguably overstays its welcome by perhaps 10 minutes.” 

Variety writer Owen Gleiberman writes that the movie “isn’t a masterpiece … yet it’s an elating ramble of a movie, ardent and full of feeling.” Mr. Gleiberman lauded the music also, writing, “[The] series of song-and-dance numbers … are tenderly shocking in their catchy anachronistic beauty. The film’s score is such a melodious achievement that there are moments it evokes the bittersweet majesty of George Gershwin.… Gosling and Stone click together as effervescently as they did in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’”

The movie opening in limited release makes it slightly different from recent musical hits like “Into the Woods” and “Les Misérables,” which opened wide and became high-grossing films. Yet “Land” is still the newest in a movie genre that has become more popular in recent years, with films like the 2001 Oscar-nominated box office hit “Moulin Rouge!” and 2002’s high-grossing “Chicago” (which won the Oscar Best Picture) kicking off a new era for the musical movie.

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