La La Land is a 2016 American romantic musical comedy-drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. The film’s title refers both to the city of Los Angeles and to the idiom for being out of touch with reality.
Chazelle wrote the screenplay in 2010, but he did not find a studio willing to finance the production without changes to his design. Following the success of his 2014 film Whiplash, the project was picked up by Summit Entertainment. La La Land premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2016, and it was released theatrically in the United States on December 9, 2016. It has grossed $223 million worldwide against a production budget of $30 million.
La La Land received critical acclaim upon its release and is regarded as one of the best films of 2016. Critics praised Chazelle’s screenplay and direction, Gosling and Stone’s performances, Justin Hurwitz‘s musical score and the film’s musical numbers. At the 89th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for a record-tying fourteen Oscars (along with 1997’s Titanic and 1950’s All About Eve), including Best Picture, Best Director (Chazelle), Best Actor (Gosling), Best Actress (Stone) and two Best Original Songs, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars“. The film also won in every category it was nominated for at the 74th Golden Globe Awards with a record-breaking seven wins.
On a crowded Los Angeles highway (“Another Day of Sun“), Mia (Emma Stone), an on-studio barista and aspiring actress, has a moment of road rage with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist. Her subsequent audition goes poorly despite her efforts. That night, Mia’s roommates take her to a lavish party in the Hollywood Hills to cheer her up (“Someone in the Crowd”). She has to take a long walk back after finding that her car has been towed.
During a gig at a restaurant, Sebastian slips into a passionate jazz improvisation despite warnings from the owner (J. K. Simmons) to only play songs on the setlist. Mia overhears the music as she passes by (“Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”). Moved, she enters, but Sebastian is promptly fired for his disobedience. As he storms out, Mia attempts to compliment him, but he coldly brushes her off.
Months later, Mia runs into Sebastian at a party where he plays in a 1980s pop cover band; she teases him. After the gig, the two walk together to find their cars, lamenting being in each other’s company despite the chemistry between them (“A Lovely Night”).
Mia takes Sebastian on a walk around the movie lot, explaining her passion for acting; Sebastian takes Mia to a jazz club, describing his passion for jazz and desire to open his own club. They warm to each other (“City of Stars“). Sebastian invites Mia to a screening of Rebel Without a Cause, which Mia accepts, forgetting an earlier commitment with her current boyfriend. Discontented with that date, she leaves and rushes to the theater, finding Sebastian as the film begins. The two conclude their evening with a romantic dance at the Griffith Observatory (“Planetarium”).
After more failed auditions, Mia decides, at Sebastian’s suggestion, to write a personal single-actress play. Sebastian begins to perform regularly at the jazz club (“Summer Montage”) and the two move in together. A high school classmate, Keith (John Legend), invites Sebastian to be the keyboardist in his jazz band, which offers a steady source of income. Sebastian is dismayed over the band’s pop-oriented style, but decides to sign with them after overhearing Mia trying to convince her mother that Sebastian is working on his career. Mia attends one of their concerts (“Start a Fire”) but is disturbed, knowing Sebastian could not possibly enjoy his band’s music.
During the band’s first tour, Mia confronts Sebastian over his future and goals. Sebastian responds by claiming a steady career is what she wanted for him before accusing her of liking him more when he was unsuccessful. Insulted, Mia leaves. On the night of Mia’s play, Sebastian fails to show up due to a photo shoot he had forgotten about. Only a few people attend and Mia overhears dismissive comments. Despondent, she decides to move back home to Boulder City, Nevada.
One day, Sebastian receives a call from a casting director who had attended Mia’s play, inviting Mia to a film audition the following evening. Sebastian drives to Boulder City and persuades Mia to attend. For the audition Mia is simply asked to tell a story; she begins to sing about her aunt who inspired her to pursue acting (“Audition/The Fools Who Dream”). Sebastian, confident that the audition was a success, asserts that Mia must devote herself wholeheartedly to the opportunity. They profess they will always love each other but are uncertain of their future.
Five years later, Mia is a famous actress and happily married to another man (Tom Everett Scott), with whom she has a daughter. One night, the couple stumble upon a jazz bar. Noticing the Seb’s logo she had once designed, Mia realizes Sebastian has finally opened his club. Sebastian spots Mia, visibly unsettled, in the crowd. He begins to play their love theme (“Epilogue”), prompting an extended dream sequence in which the two imagine what might have been had their relationship worked perfectly. The song ends and Mia leaves with her husband. Before exiting, she shares one last look with Sebastian and they both smile.
- Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder
- Emma Stone as Mia Dolan
- John Legend as Keith
- Rosemarie DeWitt as Laura Wilder
- Finn Wittrock as Greg Earnest
- Jessica Rothe as Alexis
- Sonoya Mizuno as Caitlin
- Callie Hernandez as Tracy
- J. K. Simmons as Bill
- Tom Everett Scott as David
- Meagen Fay as Mia’s Mom
- Damon Gupton as Harry
- Jason Fuchs as Carlo
- Josh Pence as Josh