La La Land

Whiplash was 2014’s little film that could: the $3 million picture took Sundance by storm, won three Oscars and got nominated for two more, grossed $49 million in all, and put director Damien Chazelle on the map as an up-and-comer to watch. No surprise, then, that Lionsgate is hoping Chazelle will be able to work a similar magic with his next film, La La Land. The studio has pushed the musical romance, which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, from July 15, 2016 to December, putting it right in the thick of awards season. 

Variety reports La La Land is now set for a limited release starting December 2, followed by a nationwide expansion two weeks later on December 16. The only other film currently set for December 2 is Relativity’s Strangers 2, about which we’ve heard next to nothing. But La La Land‘s competition in its December 16 wide release weekend will be much stiffer: it’s going up against the Will Smith-starrer Collateral Beauty and, gulp, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (In its former July 15 slot, La La Land would’ve had to compete with Ghostbusters.)

It says volumes about Lionsgate’s confidence in the film that they’re not only pushing it to awards season — always a very competitive time of the year — but that they’re willing to open it opposite Rogue One. But the two films are different enough that La La Land could be effective counter-programming, the way Sisters was for Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year.

La La Land reunites Gosling and Stone, who sizzled together in Crazy, Stupid, Love., for a dreamy romance set in modern-day Los Angeles. He’s a jazz musician and she’s an aspiring actress, and they fall in love but find themselves torn apart by the pressures of the city. The film promises song-and-dance numbers channeling the Golden Age of Hollywood. As Chazelle explained back in 2014:

I’d like to make a contemporary musical about L.A., starting with the L.A. we know but slowly building to a vision of the city as romantic metropolis–one that is actually worthy of the dreams it inspires. I’d like to make a musical about the way L.A.’s peculiar rhythms can push its residents to the edge of their emotions – be they hope, desperation or love. Think the kind of teetering-toward-madness you see in “The Graduate” or “Boogie Nights”, and imagine if you were to push that further. In this case, the city pushes its residents all the way: it pushes them into song.

J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, and John Legend also star.

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