SPOILERS ahead for La La Land!
Damien Chazelle’s latest movie seems to be sweeping everybody off their feet, and for me, it has prompted more in-depth conversations than perhaps I had anticipated.
On the surface level, La La Land is everything that people have been saying it is, a dazzling romance with amazing songs and gorgeous visuals. Now writing this after my fifth viewing of the film however, I’ve come to realise that La La Land offers so much more than just pleasurable escapism. The film has been resonating with lots of people in lots of different ways, but the thematic richness of this film has been providing enlightening new ways for me to enjoy this film with every repeated watch.
Having initially been prompted to share these thoughts on the marginally divisive and undoubtedly bittersweet ending (you might want to give this a read as well when you get the time as it ties into a lot of what I want to say here), my fifth viewing prompted a somewhat revelatory reading of the characters in La La Land, and how this ties in with the rest of the film thematically.
These are all my thoughts of course, and the beauty of films is that we can all have our own readings of them, however I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, and please share yours in the comments!
For many, the bittersweet ending to the film was not only a disappointment, but it caught many a little off guard. Despite there being several hints throughout that Sebastian and Mia might not end up living happily ever after, for some it was a bitter pill to swallow when you have spent the course of the film becoming so emotionally invested in their relationship, and seeing two people who in many ways seemed destined to be together.
For me, the ending was perfect, and my other post reiterates this, but not only was it perfect, for these characters and what they represent, in my mind it was the only possible ending for them.
Think about it this way, Sebastian represents the idealistic, traditional, perhaps even old-fashioned worldview and the Hollywood representation of romance, and Mia the modern, non-traditional, unconventional even, and “real-life” representation of romance. Bear with me on this one!
Some of the clues become more evident when you think about it with this mindset. Sebastian doesn’t appear to own or use a mobile phone and drives an old-fashioned car. Mia however has an iPhone and a Prius, two things which quite deliberately take the audience out of the fantasy that this could be an old Hollywood musical! It sounds simple enough, but there’s many times when they appear to have come from different times. It is Sebastian who suggests that the fact they keep running into each other could mean something, and Mia who dismisses it fairly quickly. Of course Mia comes round to Seb’s charm, but it’s clear from the start they could have quite opposing views when it comes to love and romance.
Similarly, Chazelle’s use of colour in this film has quite rightly been the source of much praise, and the colour of the clothes the characters wear reinforces some of this idea. Sebastian dresses quite traditionally, most often in black & white, or sepia tones. Mia on the other hand dresses in pops of primary colours. They provide a deliberate contrast which is so aesthetically pleasing, but also suggests Sebastian represents that bygone era, and Mia the present or even future. It might be a bit of a stretch, but given how much this film pays tribute to the films of yesteryear, Sebastian could represent the old era of Hollywood, and Mia, the new and modern era.
Their separate ambitions form the final crux of them being unable to have their romantic happy ending as well, and it is fitting that Seb’s dream involves saving the dying art of jazz by opening his own jazz club, upholding and respecting the traditions of the music he holds so dear. Mia however wants to be an actress, a career which demands a constant ability to change, adapt, or move forward if you will.
When looking at all of these things, whilst it is still a little heartbreaking that they don’t end up together (we’re all human after all!), it makes perfect and wonderful sense. Whilst they both had something unique to offer the other, they were in many ways worlds or even eras apart. Their clash of ambitions meant they had to prioritise that over each other, but deep down, their ideologies and world views of love and romance were pretty different.
Whether or not this was all as Chazelle intended is up for debate, but either way, La La Land is the gift that keeps on giving, and here’s hoping this post prompts even more discussion because frankly, I don’t think I’m done just yet!