Fact: the musical is the most polarizing medium in the history of people pretending to be other people. Spontaneous song-and-dance shtick either fills your heart with joy or sends your index fingers flying towards ear holes in Pavlovian terror. For 99% of the planet, there's no in-between.
But Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle dreams of harmony, and La La Land is his peace offering. Yes, the movie whispers through dance sequences and ditties, there is more to this genre than singing cats. La La Land extends a hand to anyone scarred by a barrage of two-steps, jazz hands, and glitter costumes -- and bets are, you'll grab hold.
The pairing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who can sing just well enough, is the reason. Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz purist who's dying to open his own club. Stone is Mia, a barista-cum-actress who spends equal time auditioning and daydreaming about making it big. Romance fans their fires. Life deals them consequences. And their numbers, a mix of fragile love songs and bursting-from-the-seams showstoppers, are rough around the edges. The way you might hum your way into an improvised tune is how every song in La La Land organically comes to life on screen. These are actual human people performing actual human songs, rather than Auto-Tuned celebrity cutouts burning $100 million on karaoke. You don't know how deep a warbled note can dig until you see this movie in a world where Rock of Ages exists.