Since seeing La La Land, I was surprised by the variety of responses that it provoked from the people I discussed the film with. One friend loved it for the romance and nostalgia, my dad thought it as a sweet portrayal of puppy love, and a friend of a friend flat out did not like it because she could not relate.
It’s interesting how much you can learn about people based on reactions to a film.
For me, I fell completely in love with La La Land. I went to the theater expecting to be entertained, but I was totally moved. I liked it for the nostalgia and the romance, but what made me love this film was its thorough depiction of an artist’s vision and struggle to reach his or her dreams.
La La Land wasn’t technically perfect– a few lyrics were arguably unimaginative, a couple dance numbers were lackluster, nor was the editing always paced as well as it could’ve been. And, as lovely as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are, their voices are not trained for the musical genre.
However, if there’s one thing that director Damien Chazelle has proven he can do, it’s making you feel. It probably helped, too, that as an aspiring filmmaker, I completely related to these characters.
La La Land weighs ambition against love through the story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a jazz pianist who approaches his music with a stubborn purism. As the two strive to make their dreams come true in Los Angeles, their romance exposes the thin line between success and selling out.
The story unfolds over the course of a year, broken up by seasons (that all look the same– 72 and sunny). Its colorful musical numbers highlight both love and ambition with dreamy idyll, reviving the qualities that made anyone who’s followed these desires reminisce on their early appeal.
What the film doesn’t do, though, is give a straightforward answer, particularly to the question of success and love. With a bittersweet ending that leaves us wondering which pursuit is better, we leave the theater knowing which we may have preferred, but also knowing deep down, we would still wonder what life might be like had we chosen a different path.