Call it a love letter to Los Angeles, an ode to starry-eyed dreamers, a revival of Golden Age Hollywood glam – La La Land checks all of those boxes and then some! The film is bursting at the seams with colour and whimsy, but at no point during the brilliantly choreographed musical numbers between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling does it feel anything short of genuine.
Like all good movies, behind the dazzling screenplay is unexpected emotional heft. For something that promises a flight of fancy, the film manages to leave us with several life lessons worth unpacking. So if you haven’t seen La La Land yet, hit pause and head to the cinemas. Partly because it’s tipped for an Oscar, partly because Ryan Gosling is in it (hey girl) but mostly – MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Lesson 1. Chasing a pipe dream…
The premise of the movie is simple – boy meets girl, and the pair hit it off in a series of meet-cutes and meaningful glances. But theirs isn’t the only love story in the film. Both know exactly what their passions are and what they want out of life – they pursue their goals with a relentless and restless energy. Boy (Sebastian) is a old school jazz musician and self professed romantic with grand plans to open his own jazz club. Girl (Mia) is an aspiring actress stuck serving lattes on a studio lot.
The film is a shout out to anyone who’s ever felt like what they love to do doesn’t exactly fit the societal mold, or that they have an end goal in mind but no idea how to get there. There are few career paths more murky than being successful in the performing arts – so let Mia and Sebastian’s spunky take on Hollywood inspire you!
Lesson 2. … and knowing when (or if) to give up
La La Land celebrates the dreamers and the fantasies we spin for ourselves – but it’s not a red carpet journey the entire way. It’s easy to watch someone’s idealised scenario flash across the big screen as we often imagine it for ourselves in our own heads, being their best selves and living out their dreams unencumbered. But the movie weaves in elements of melancholy, acknowledging that some fantasies don’t play out in reality – most poignantly when Mia’s ambitions are shattered as her one-woman play is poorly received. It’s an unwelcome reminder of reality and our own shortcomings. The issue isn’t laid out in black and white; the need to be realistic and make ends meet war with the shoulda-would-couldas throughout the film. La La Land doesn’t provide the answers, but it does show that it is 100% okay to feel in doubt.
Lesson 3. Personal versus romantic love
Fasten your seatbelt folks, because this is where the real spoilers happen. In the film, viewers are fed this bittersweet grain of truth: love and career don’t always mix. Relationships are give and take, and when both parties have ambitions that involve copious amounts of time, energy and distance… well, sometimes you honestly can’t have both. It’s a low key kick in the gut for all the uber romantics lured to watch by the promise of song, dance and a little romance. La La Land has all the makings of a cosmopolitan fairy tale, and this is the one thread that grounds the film and keeps its characters genuinely relatable – a melancholic sense that as good as they are together, Mia and Sebastian may not achieve what they set out to if they remain a couple.
Lesson 4. Time and place
Many of the film’s most beautiful moments happen as brilliant choreography, charismatic leads and the twinkling lights of LA collide. But what resonates the strongest are the final 15 minutes of the movie, where we are treated to a montage of what is and what could have been – the perfect combination of whimsical and wistful. Mia and Sebastian were undeniable #couplegoals, pushing each other to fulfill their respective ambitions and providing solace when things didn’t pan out. They were instrumental to each other’s success and exactly what the other needed at that point in time. But as we all well know, times change. What made you happy once may not make you as happy now. You may have multiple great loves in your life but it doesn’t make any of them lesser.
La La Land is an ode to dreamers, to the wild and fantastical plans we have for ourselves and sometimes, that we share with others. It also recognises life’s ability to knock us off course from time to time, and that’s where the movie really comes through for us. Instead of making it feel dull and tragic, it makes it all appear extraordinarily okay.