La La Land ★★

Starts out Step Up, then Stage Door done midcentury, but the charm of the fantasy fades when it yields easy wins and cliches. Chazelle's unfocused wide long takes lose the personalities on their own—he can't even take a moment to properly introduce the great Rosemarie DeWitt—but it doesn't help that numbers include the reverse Busby Berkeley (the camera spins for the dancers, shot from inside the pool, blurred to suggest an idea of choreography as opposed to the meticulous real thing) and the zero-G dance (which silhouettes our lovers into shadow puppetry; Wall-E and Eve this ain't). But mostly it's just that everything collapses—the character sketches, the magic of the movies, the fortune cookie offerings—if you put your lips together and blow. The tawdry secret to La La Land is it's all so cheap.

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