lethargilistic’s review published on Letterboxd:
The traditional musical sections of La La Land are absolute delights, musically and especially visually. If the rest of the movie in between them delivered on their promise, this would have been one to remember forever. It's unfortunate that I have to qualify that statement at all, because the parts in between are often quite stunning visually and enjoyably musical. When those two strengths aren't working together it's like getting samples of some delicious jelly and peanut butter and loving the combo when you smush them together, but not having enough money or the foresight to buy it, so you forgot the brands. You'll never live in a world where you got to eat an entire sandwich with that jelly and that peanut butter, and we'll never live in a world where La La Land is the greatest movie musical of all time.
But, as I say, those musical parts in the middle were still great, whether a diagetic concert or an instrumental. They just weren't what I was looking for as a fan of musicals. Instead, they delivered on the themes of understanding the quirks of the ones you love (recall when Sebastian praises the trumpeter for having his own idea in the performance) or demonstrating the clash between what Sebastian valued as a traditionalist and what he valued as a person with immediate financial needs.
The visual, filmic elements of it are more prevalent throughout, with Mia's bright pastel colors contrasting with Sebastian's muted and natural colors. Every shot intended to pop explodes against your eyes like a refreshing water balloon to the face, even when they do an effect where the world fades to black around a person. The sets and lighting were incredible, and the camera work made it stand out even more: fantastic tracking shots during the crowded, colorful opening musical sequences transition directly to long shots of Mia walking the streets alone at night at the beginning.
This is a movie about two great passions, music and film, flirting together in the short term to create a unique, wonderful spectacle, but ultimately unable to stick things out together as they pursue their own goals. It leaves us wondering what could have been for the scenario, explicitly, but also implicitly all movie musicals. And, for that, the movie is indispensable.