a LA LA LAND musing - second thoughts
After seeing it for a third time, I can say for sure this was my favorite movie of the year. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn near it. It’s so joyous in its execution of its fantasies, and portrays heartbreaking realism at the same time. It’s about the consequence of chasing dreams and how it can affect a relationship. There’s so many things I want to talk about, so I’m just gonna bullet point these:
- It starts off unapologetically, throwing it back to musicals of old, with long takes to show an elevated fantasy. Each song that has lyrics ends with a crash back to reality, whether it be the sound of horns or a tow away sign or a phone call revealing “her Bogart”. Songs that don’t have lyrics don’t end this way, though, since most of those sequences are within the context of reality.
- Their relationship is bookended with pained shots of Ryan Gosling’s face after pouring his heart out through music and fantasies. They first see each other in the restaurant where Sebastian defies the owner and plays what comes to be the couple’s main theme, and after he finishes banging out incredible free jazz on the piano, he stands and sees Mia standing there, in awe of what she just heard. This is where we see Sebastian looking vulnerable, trapped in this situation, unsatisfied with where he is in life. At the end of the movie, 5 years later, he finished the epic finale piece, Mia leaves with her husband, then looks back. Sebastian takes a while, then finally gains the courage to look at her, and eventually, and somewhat reluctantly smiles, and she smiles back. He’s happy where he is, and she is too, but it’s an acknowledgement that what they had was great when it happened, and that they had to give up their love to pursue their dreams.
- I was hoping they wouldn’t smile, and that it just ended with them looking at each other and blacked out, since that’s kind of how real life is. But that wouldn’t have fit with the structure of the movie nor how their relationship was. It’s a lot of wishful thinking and reflective on how I view my relationships. Those close to me can tell why I love and relate so closely to these characters, since this is pretty much my last relationship to a tee. I think Damian Chazelle might have interviewed me in my sleep.
- One scene that bugged me was the John Legend ‘rant’ right after the first jam together. It felt too expositional, since it was mainly Legend/Keith talking at Sebastian. I would have appreciated them both having a conversation, since that would have been a more natural and realistic way of telling the audience all of that.
- “Audition” (and this whole movie) is a love letter Los Angeles and to those that do dream and pursue what they want. The lyrics of this song and “Another Day of Sun” portray people who left what they had to come to LA and act or dance or sing, and I know plenty of people who have done the same.
- The finale is one of the best sequences of all time. All the scenes before that becomes fodder for the sequence, building up moments and implanting important images that are put into a different context in the fantastical finale. (Full disclosure, I couldn’t stop bawling during the whole thing the first time I watched it; just when I thought I or the sequence would stop, it kept going and so did I.) Everything about it was wonderfully set up and executed, all leading to a perfect ending.
Some of my younger cousins and some other people I overheard in my showings didn’t like LA LA LAND, mainly because they didn’t like the fact that they didn’t get together in the end, but again, that’s just life sometimes. Life goes on, and sometimes what is true love doesn’t always work out. You focus on yourself and your goals, and five years down the road maybe you’ll see that person again and smile and remember the time you did have, but still appreciate what you have now and that that love happened, just like Mia and Sebastian did. That’s the more ‘mature’ message this movie tried to send, and I don’t think the movie would have been as effective in its portrayal of real life if Mia dumped her husband right then and there, ran up to the stage and kissed/married Sebastian. That would have ruined the movie and its realism.
That’s all I got for now. I might write more when I see this again for a fourth or fifth time. I love this movie.