Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment
Nowadays the Venice Film Festival is the opening act of Oscar season, and this year its own opening act was La La Land. Although it isn't the first movie with award aspirations this year to screen for festival audiences, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle's musical started the wave of Oscar contenders to come with the highest notes possible.
With raves across the board from critics' early tweets and reviews, Rotten Tomatoes collected 14 perfect reviews so far for an average score of 9.2 out of 10. The closest thing to a review that isn't over the moon is from Indie Wire's Eric Kohn, who still says the movie "is magically in tune with its reference points even as it falls a few notes short of their greatness."
Those who believe it did reach such greatness include the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who exclaims it is a "sun-drenched musical masterpiece," while Deadline's Pete Hammond cheered the "gorgeous romantic fever dream of a movie musical" as "one for this age - and the ages." The Playlist's Jessica Kiang also announces it is "a film you simply never want to stop watching", and Screen International's Fionnuala Halligan adds it is "tap-dancing its way into the hearts of incurable romantics everywhere."
That is exactly what Chazelle was going for, as he and Stone shared in a Q&A after the screening. Chazelle proclaimed "now more than ever we need hope and romance on the screen" while Stone hoped that young people who "have fallen into a lot of cynicism" will flock to a movie that "is anything but that."
Stone already played an embodiment of such young people in Birdman, which began its road to Best Picture and to Stone's first Oscar nomination right at the Venice festival two years ago. At the least, both La La Land and Stone are now squarely in the running to have history repeat itself, to say nothing of Chazelle repeating or perhaps exceeding his own 2014 breakthough in Whiplash. From the way critics have talked, he may get back in the Best Director race for the opening sequence alone.
Of course, La La Land still has the Toronto film festival and a newfound bullseye on its back from the Venice raves to get through, and that's before opening to general audiences and the Oscar campaign circuit. Given that Oscar season is one of the most cynicism inspiring aspects of Hollywood, one can only guess how a movie like this will fare as it goes through the race.
First and foremost, La La Land has set the bar high for Venice's other potential contenders like Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, Hacksaw Ridge and more over the next two weeks. It hopes to still hold a high bar by the time American audiences get a hold of it on Dec. 2.