La La Land dances away with coveted Toronto gong
THE bewitching musical La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone won the Toronto film festival audience prize on Sunday, giving it a leg up on the competition as the Oscars race takes shape.
The joyful, quirky film by Damien Chazelle about a struggling jazz pianist and his actress girlfriend in Los Angeles pays tribute to the Golden Age of American musicals.
It also reunites Gosling and Stone, who starred together in the 2011 romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love - but with oodles of singing this time.
Stone plays Mia, a wide-eyed romantic who goes from audition to audition in her quest to make it big.
Gosling is Sebastian, a jazz pianist with a mission to save the medium but who struggles to pay his bills.
The pair meet - in one of LA's famous traffic jams and then at a bawdy celebrity party - before wooing each other in tap- and ballroom-dancing sequences.
"Now, more than ever, we need hope and romance on the big screen," said Chazelle, 31, a former jazz musician.
La La Land opened the Venice film festival in late August, earning accolades from critics and moviegoers, before screening in Toronto - a bellwether for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors.
Films such as 12 Years A Slave, The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire went on from winning the Toronto film festival people's choice award for best picture to take the top honour at the Oscars.