La La Land received his second Oscar nomination for his performance as Sebastian Wilder in La La Land.
Ryan Gosling, despite getting a lot of nominations for his performance in this movie and winning the Golden Globe, was never really considered as a true contender for the actual win but rather as one of those cases in which the nomination is pretty much a given but the win itself is not very likely. Emma Stone was the one who got most of the attention among the movie's two leads, and she went on to win a richly deserved Oscar for dazzling, stunning performance, but in my opinion Ryan Gosling is just as good as she is with a far less showy role. He does not have any truly big scene (unlike Stone's "Audition") and Sebastian as a character is more subdued than Mia is, but Ryan Gosling delivers nonetheless a truly wonderful performance that is one of the main reasons why La La Land is such a magical and unforgettable experience.
Gosling's early scenes are actually far more challenging than it seems at first sight because in the hands of a less talented actor Sebastian could have been an unbearable character: he is technically a bit arrogant and obnoxious and the only reason why he results so endearing is because Ryan Gosling is such an effortlessly charming and charismatic actor. He carries every scene in a very quiet, unshowy manner but he manages to be extremely charming in an effectively low-key way and he manages to hold his own against the always luminous Stone: this does not mean he ever sugarcoates the less likeable qualities of Sebastian - he just manages to portray them in an endearing, sort of comical fashion that makes the character rather enjoyable in his occasional smugness. Especially in the beginning, Gosling actually has some incredibly funny moments due to his impeccable timing and delivery (the "It's not what you mean" is absolutely priceless) or his hilarious facial expressions when Mia requests "I Ran" at a party, much to his dismay. As I mentioned in my review of Stone's performance, I think the two of them share an absolutely amazing chemistry and they balance each other perfectly - Gosling's charmingly subdued performance works wonders opposite Stone's marvelously explosive one and they are just a delight to watch in every single scene. Their chemistry is on fire even when they are bickering and they make for such a perfect match, making you root for them even when the circumstances suggest the contrary.
Gosling's singing voice is not necessarily amazing but he can carry a tune more than decently and most importantly he acts well during the numbers - in particular, I like his rendition of "City of Stars". And his dancing is actually great, particularly in "A Lovely Night", and he has such an infectious and contagious energy in those scenes. And he does an absolutely amazing job at conveying Sebastian's passion for jazz: not only he brings the right sort of dedication to the scene in which he plays the piano but in each of his speeches about jazz he just brings so much convincion and sincere passion that you just can't help but root for him and wish for his success. An interesting turn arrives when Sebastian joins a band that plays music that is nothing like the one he loves, achieving success but somewhat betraying his ideals: Gosling is amazing at portraying his conflicting emotions in this segment of the movie as he conveys so well both the satisfaction that comes with success but also a certain lack of joy as he feels he is not making the sort of music he intended to. His relationship with Mia also becomes increasingly strained due to the distance, and Gosling and Stone are absolutely amazing in the dinner scene: they are wonderful as they show their happiness for being together again for a moment and then they are terrific as their conversation slowly becomes a heated argument. It's an impeccably written scene and both actors brings an aching ferocity to it.
I feel that in the last section of the movie the screenplay puts Gosling aside a little bit, but Gosling does such a brilliant job that he manages not to be overshadowed by Stone: he's great in each attempts to convince Mia to try again to become an actress and even if Stone is again the one with the far more emotional role Gosling is great at portraying his faith in her talent and ability to become a star. He brings great support to her while leaving a huge impression himself. And he is terrific in his final conversation with her after her audition: he is terrific at showing his uncertainties regarding their future together but also his sincere love for her. It's a very quiet, subtle scene that ends up being quite heartbreaking because of the beautiful work from the two actors. The ending of the film is absolutely astonishing and this is also because of Gosling's and Stone's work: Gosling's final reaction and smile is just such a beautiful ending note to his performance.
This is a fantastic performance from Ryan Gosling who delivers a wonderfully entertaining and incredibly moving performance that works wonders with Emma Stone's portrayal. He acts on a very quiet register but leaves an absolutely unforgettable impression. It's a performance that is very charming and engaging but also far more than depth, and he finds a depth in Sebastian that many others actors would have missed. It's a great, underrated turn from an actor I really admire.