Damien Chazelle’s La La Land doesn’t really take place in the city of Los Angeles. The story is set in the mythic Hollywood of cinephiles and hopeless romantics. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are likeable and give the impression that anyone can sing and dance, but the real star of the movie is the city.
Shot in a mash-up of cinematic style from Minnelli to Cukor, Demy to Donan, the film tell its tale of an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist in a purely visual way. If you took away the dialogue and set the movie to an instrumental score, it would be pretty clear what was going on inside and outside the minds of Stone and Gosling’s star crossed lovers.
A jazz score might not be your cup of tea, unless its background music for a detective story, and the limited use of the supporting cast, relegated to a Busby Berkeley showgirl sort of purgatory, may appear to be a missed opportunity, but the focus is on two self possessed people in an Antonioni landscape. If a young Jean-Luc Goddard made a musical in LA, this is what it might look like.