Close your eyes. Think about your favorite movies. Why do you like them? Because they are fun? Make you feel good? Is the premise relatable and benevolent? Classics like the Twilight series or The Blind Side may come to mind. Maybe even Disney or Marvel works come to mind. Now open your eyes. Those movies are bad. They are not La La Land.
I often feel like I’ve seen the same movie, like the studios in power just cash in on these homogeneous ideas. You can go as far as to say much of the reality we know today follows the same suit; a constant desire for alignment and instant gratification. We lose sight of natural themes and meanings in the entertainment we consume, looking for escapism rather than relation.
Despite the absence of joy I have in my life, occasionally, these comets of purpose and beauty streak through the night sky. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land isn’t even a comet; it’s more… it’s what killed the dinosaurs.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s performances as a struggling jazz pianist (Sebastian) and actress (Mia) on the spectrum of dreams and success in Los Angeles’ kingdom are masterclasses in cinema. The opening scene pans a gridlocked highway; each car is tuned into their music, and then bang–song and dance break out. A joyous ensemble with vibrant colors and an uplifting tempo eventually comes grinding to a halt, pulling you back into reality. This romantic glimpse of success in Los Angeles may feel familiar, yet the viewer is constantly grounded in that seldom is that feeling achieved– this is the film’s backbone. Instead of taking traditional storytelling routes, what’s presented in Sebastian and Mia’s case is something real. A feeling that maybe your moment has passed and that perhaps you don’t have what it takes to overcome the odds.
The relationship that ensues between the two feels fleeting even from its inception. Both these people understand one another and relate in a pure, fundamental way that allows them to indulge in one another’s dreams while further affirming the chase of their own. The love between the two doesn’t follow normative Hollywood troupes; it is pragmatic and flawed like the reality viewers know. Chazelle doesn’t create their reality with monotonous or exaggerated dialogue but instead with imagery and sound. Their first date at the planetarium has no dialogue, just orchestral rhythm, as we let the story unfold before us. The viewer is informed by relation, watching the two fall for one another in that ethereal way that doesn’t require verbal context. The same mythical ethos actual people feel when in the presence of that one person that feels so natural.
Then, just like in its opening scene, you’re halted by reality again. Instead of wrapping the film up with jubilee, we see something real. Our lovers are pulled onto separate paths by their ambitions. This idea that finality doesn’t exist in Seb and Mia’s world mirrors how seldom it exists in our own lives. The bonds we make are finite; we know and care for people within windows in which both parties align by circumstance. The film embodies this feeling of loss so well, the end of Seb and Mia’s relationship is painful and desolate, marred by the cost that our own personal development requires.
Yet were presented in the final act with the perspective that both good and bad occupy the same validity, the same beauty, and cannot exist without one another. We come to understand that loss is often not as personal or spiteful as it seems in the moment. That we should come to reconcile with this scorn and know that we can only appreciate the capacity and times in which we know those that we lose. The tears and emotions between Seb and Mia aren’t those of sadness or wanting, but rather of reverence of what once was, and how the realities they came to know are largely due to the influence they both had on one another.
La La Land isn’t your hallmark idea of a love story; there isn’t idealistic finality, nor is there great tragedy. It exists in the unspoken and unrepresented reality in which viewers genuinely understand. . Echoing the nature of the relational and personal struggles created simply by virtue of the paths we take, relational intertwining and unwinding, the highs, and the lows.
Tell someone you love them, appreciate the moment as it will eventually pass, catch up with those who are no longer nearby, understand and appreciate all emotions and states, and above all else, watch La La Land.
Final Rating: 10/10 broken Rimview washing machines