The first two acts of the film beautifully plays homage to the beautiful musicals of the 70s. The music could not have captured this era more perfectly, though as a general rule, they are not as upbeat as one may expect (there is really only one number that I would describe at "catchy" because that is not what the film is aiming for). More often than not the early parts of the story are told through slow ballads or jazz instrumentals, which were extremely captivating but won't leave you coming out of the theatre singing the songs. As a musical style jazz (a dying art in and of itself) is an inspired choice of music for a film playing homage to a dying art.
The beautiful music is complimented by the film's beautiful look. The cinematography felt very personal, while leaving us a lot of room to breath. This helped me to stay truly invested in the characters without feeling trapped within their skin. This look is obviously aided brilliantly by the sets and costumes, which are build beautifully to often contrast the stunning bright optimism that the film is built on with sporadic dark backdrops. These often feel at once encouraging and romantic but also discouraged and frustrated. While my knowledge of dance is limited, the choreography appeared (at least to the untrained eye) to add work wonderfully with the aesthetic that Chazelle and his crew had created.
This is all exactly what I was expecting, a beautiful homage to a lost art that looks and sounds great. Having seen whiplash I was very confident Chazelle would be able to pull that off beautifully. What I didn't anticipate how it would completely transcend this to create real dramatic tension that offers one of the most optimistically heartbreaking final scenes of any movie I have ever seen. I really do not want to spoil it in case someone ever reads this review but seriously the final sequence in this movie is simply perfection. Between this and Whiplash, I must say Chazelle seriously knows how to end a film strongly. One of the final moments involves a simple smile from Ryan Gosling, which was so perfectly captured that you could feel every ounce of emotion running through the veins of his character.
Speaking of which, I could go on and on about the aesthetics of the film but it would be nothing without the fantastic central performances. Ryan Gosling gives probably his best performance I have ever seen as Sebastian, who is an obsessive jazz pianist. This is met wonderfully by the absolutely perfect Emma Stone as Mia, an LA waitress struggling to break through as an actress. Both sung beautifully (often live I believe) and managed to convey such emotion that you really believed these characters. Neither character felt a single bit one-dimensional (as musical characters often do) and they share an unbelievable amount of chemistry.
To sum up I absolutely adored this movie. I struggle to find any single aspect that was lacking. It sounded and looked great, the acting/ characters were phenomenal, the writing felt real and allowed for multi-dimensional character and the final act just seriously knocked it out of the park. No final scene has ever affected me as much as this one did. I will not forget this movie in a hurry!