The movie musical is built almost entirely on the willingness of an audience to submit to romanticism, and writer/director Damien Chazelle wastes no time announcing what sort of movie this is with a “CinemaScope” title card and a dance number set in Southern California freeway traffic. The plot is simple bordering on simplistic—a “boy meets girl” tale of an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling)—built on the easy chemistry between the two leads and their sheer commitment to the kind of movie they’re in. But while Chazelle frequently name-checks vintage movie history, it’s not because he’s claiming an equal place. This is a movie about the euphoria that beautiful, silly and, yes, romantic art can inspire in viewers, maybe the kind of movie that matters most in a time when cynicism feels easiest.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Producer: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Gary Gilbert
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Meagan Fay, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott and Josh Pence