2016 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

Two people - aspiring actress and coffee shop counter girl Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist and wannabe club owner Seb (Ryan Gosling) - find their heart's desires blossoming after a rendezvous at a party in the Hollywood Hills. However, they also discover that success and careers are eventually to come between them. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) unashamedly plunders the riches of Old Hollywood in this joyous celebration of that old boy-meets-girl silver screen dynamic.

Director

  • Damien Chazelle

Cast

  • Ryan Gosling

  • Emma Stone

  • John Legend

  • JK Simmons

  • Rosemarie DeWitt

  • Finn Wittrock

  • Meagan Fay

Review

In an era of emotion-free autotune, humiliating TV talent contests and cynically constructed boy bands there would seem to be no place for a good old-fashioned song'n'dance extravaganza.

Yet Whiplash director Damien Chazelle begs to differ.

Eschewing any CGI trickery, X-Factor-style stars or insincere power ballads, he delivers a euphorically pure shot of undiluted joyousness, an irony-free tonic that doesn't just lift the spirits but sends them soaring heaven-wards.

It's all about a boy and a girl. Of course it is. 

Ryan Gosling is Seb, a jazz pianist whose purist leanings and ambition to open his own club are stymied by an indifferent world, particularly the chicken-in-a-basket crowd who patronise the supper club where he's the resident entertainment.

Emma Stone is Mia, a silver screen-obsessed wannabe actress and writer who constantly skips off shifts as a barista on the Warner Bros studio lot to attend auditions which usually end in disappointment.

They first meet in a traffic jam on a sun-kissed, present day Los Angeles freeway...but the focus here is a sensational one-shot dance routine where lithe-limbed commuters jump out of their stranded vehicles and do the show right there.

A few tentative steps later they re-connect at a Hollywood party (he's playing jazz synthesizer in an appalling covers band) and the sparks begin to fly, particularly after a one-take hoofing set-piece above the glinting lights of downtown LA. It could be 1950.

Their sunny romance quickly goes into overdrive...but there are stress points. He joins a successful but punishingly hard-touring band while she struggles to reverse her thwarted ambitions as a playwright. Their lofty Old Hollywood ambitions threaten to come between them.

Despite the song'n'dance focus of the film, its heartwarming success is ultimately down to the constantly sparking chemistry between Stone and Gosling.  Neither are phenomenally gifted dancers or singers but their heart-on-the-sleeve vulnerability lends real authenticity to their faltering romance.

Sweet-natured in a time of often bitter cynicism, this buoyantly uplifting fable sets the soul soaring and the heart beating.

Dance to its tune.

Tim Evans