“I am very moved by the idea that you can meet someone in your life who transforms you and sets you onto a path that is going to finally enable you to be the person you dreamed of being, but ultimately, you need to go on that path alone”, says Chazelle. “You can have a union that winds up dictating the rest of your life but doesn’t last the rest of your life. I found that incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking and wondrous. At its soul, I want that movie to be about that.”
While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future.
One of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years is “La La Land” directed by Damien Chazelle. In it, Mia — a struggling actress meets Sebastian — a struggling jazz musician, as they grapple with reaching their dreams. Mia and Sebastian, are at odds with their two selves, the actor and musician who must make sacrifices in their relationship to find what they long in life. Mia’s first stage play is a disaster, but Sebastian urges her to follow her dreams and not let this setback sway her from continuing forward. Sebastian finds success in a new pop-oriented jazz band, but must give up his roots — classic jazz vs. post modernist — and in the process, missed Mia’s first stage performance.
Mia and Sebastian go their separate ways, but years later, find the success they dreamed for while they met. Their lives intersect again one evening. Mia — now a famous Hollywood actress married to another man, unknowingly goes to Sebastian’s jazz club. She sits in the audience and Sebastian sees her from the stage. They share a moment and the movie cuts to a montage of the life they could of had if they were still together. It’s bittersweet and subverts your expectations of the traditional feel-good Hollywood ending. It’s anti-Disney live happily-ever after. I loved it.
Love vs. Your Dreams
At one point, Mia and Sebastian live together — in love. Ultimately, they separate knowing they will never reach their dreams if they are together. They are motivated by themselves to push forward and travel the journey of life alone without their partner. It’s the reality of being in a relationship, it ties you down. Commitments now impact your ability to find personal fulfillment later on. Do you chose love or yourself? Love blinds you, but taking the road less traveled, must be by yourself. Never give up on your own dreams for others and you may have to leave the person you love to reach it. It’s ultimately what you want that makes the most significant impact in your life and the need for fulfillment. Sacrifices need to be made.
Duality of Self
In the opening scene, Sebastian is seen in the reflection of his rear view mirror. Mia is seen playing a role for a movie as she is stuck in traffic. She has many selves — the movie roles she portrays. You see them day-dream — an allusion to the city of Los Angeles — also called La La land.
To Be Selfish
Both characters move on with their partners in pursuit of their dreams. For Mia, its a successful movie actress, while Sebastian wishes to open a classic jazz bar. They must forgo their own love for each other and the relationship they once shared. Sebastian in one scene realizes he will not be present in Mia’s show in order to meet the needs of his jazz group and the pressures his new found fame brings. They put themselves first, yet are aware of the strain it puts on their relationship.
Love is One Of Many
La La Land’s ending shows that Mia and Sebastian’s love is another step in the ladder. While at one point they are in love, they do not end up together. Love is dynamic and used as a motivator for each character. Mia is motivated to continue being an actress by Sebastian, while Mia tells Sebastian is losing himself being in a band he does not like. They help each other and support their dreams. While their relationship does not develop further, they use it to better themselves. It’s a learning process whether or not they’ve broken up. In that regard, there is really no end, but it where it sends them.
Personally, I can relate to this a great deal. My last girl friend motivated me to be more ambitious and even landed my first job because of her. I learned to cook due to her insistence and I love making new dishes to this day. My girl friend before her, told me to not give up and keep trying even in hard times. I would not have known I did not have my life together if it weren’t for her. Subsequently, I got the best grades of my life after her and I don’t call that coincidence. Everyone you’re with supports you and is another lesson in life. The relationship may be gone, but new habits develop and remain. I am who I am now because of my “failed” relationships.