When a movie opens with folks in a California traffic jam getting out of their cars to perform a big song and dance number, you know you're in for a treat.  La La Land is a big nostalgic love letter to the movies and music of yesteryear -- as well as the challenges of today.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista on a film studio lot with dreams of becoming a big actor -- and a lot of failed auditions behind her.  Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist with dreams of opening his own jazz club -- but he's stuck doing music gigs beneath him, like Christmas standards and '80s covers.  They don't exactly have a meet cute -- he blares his horn at her in the traffic jam; she flips him off -- but they keep running into each other, and soon they're hanging out and falling in love.
Their lives are literally punctuated by musical numbers breaking out, whether Mia's preparing to go out, the two stars dance-sparring and tap dancing on a park bench, or literally dancing on air under the stars.  But as their lives get more complex and they work on making their dreams come true -- Mia preparing to put on a one-woman show, Sebastian joining Keith (John Legend) for a most crowd-pleasing and synthesizer-based form of jazz -- their schedules keep them apart and their relationship starts to become strained...
La La Land is a glorious celebration of the movies and music of yesteryear.  Fans of classic musicals will recognize the numerous homages to musical numbers in film; in addition, Sebastian's almost obsessive pure love of jazz is reflected in La La Land's soundtrack.  Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are terrific, whether as reluctant lovers or striking out on their own.  And the movie is wonderful, from the spontaneous musical numbers to the drama of the two stars trying to make it work between them while pursuing their separate dreams.  La La Land truly brings the magic of the movies and music to life.

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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