I can honestly say that I have never seen a movie like La La Land. I am also quite comfortable saying that I will likely never see another movie like La La Land. And I mean both statements in the best way possible.
First things first, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, playing Sebastian and Mia respectively, deserve every award they have won and any future awards they may win. Were they the best singers we will see in cinema this year? No (Hats off to Auli’i Cravalho for Moana). But it hardly matters. Besides, to be honest, they were both quite good. Without each of them, the movie we saw in theaters would not have been the same movie it is currently. The story is wonderfully original, so the movie would have been a success regardless. However, the charisma that Gosling and Stone possess individually along with their on-screen chemistry enable the movie to be significantly more enjoyable. Another actor and another actress could have performed these roles just fine, and maybe even been better vocalists, but casting anyone else in these roles would simply be a disservice to the movie. La La Land deserves the performances of Gosling and Stone.
Arguably the greatest aspects of the movie are how honest it is with its audience and how real it is. But, Chuck, how can a movie titled La La Land, with its main characters floating through the air and dancing in space, be honest and real? If you will, come with me. The silhouetted dance scene with Sebastian and Mia in Griffith Observatory is the second-best scene in the movie. Admittedly, I know very little of the specifics of dancing, but that sequence is mesmerizing. It portrayed the effortless merging of two lives into one, even if it was just a temporary relationship. On a more detailed note, it even included that initial step of two individuals more fully understanding themselves through each other. This was beautifully shown when Sebastian and Mia first started floating and the clouds were around them. Each of them were visibly uncertain about their footing. However, the instant their hands touched, their footing was sound and they transitioned gracefully into the mesmerizing dance through the stars. Perhaps seeing this movie with my wife sitting right next to me makes me a little biased, but anyone who has ever had the true blessing of falling in love will attest that this is what it is. Do we literally float through the air and dance in the stars with our love? It certainly does feel like it. Do we feel unsure by ourselves but find a new confidence and comfort in our pure relationship? Yes, and the dance that follows is equally mesmerizing. La La Land captures the intricacies of falling in love in one scene without even saying a word.
The best scene of the movie is the final scene when Mia happens upon Sebastian’s jazz club when she is out to dinner with her husband. Specifically, when Mia looks back before leaving and they smile at one another. Maybe it is the romantic in me (or my desire for Ryan Gosling to have all things good), but I wanted Mia and Sebastian to be together. Or maybe it was just that I took them to be together for granted because that is how most other movies with a love story end. Whatever it may have been, I wanted them to be together without even considering the consequences. Thus, I was a bit disappointed to learn Mia’s husband was clearly not Sebastian. And the movie let me know just how selfish I was with the controversial dream sequence. Mia’s alternate world showed what could have been if she and Sebastian were still together. However, I would argue (and I believe what the movie argues as well) that the alternate life that could have been was actually less fulfilling than the lives that each character currently had. The most drastic difference between the two lives being that Sebastian never did fulfill his dream of opening his own jazz club. On a more subtle note, Mia also did not reach the same level of success as an actress. When I was just coming to terms emotionally with Sebastian and Mia never being together again, I was thrown this half hope that maybe they were. Maybe the dream sequence was actually what happened and the two lived out their love story in bliss. However, this hope was dashed with a quick snap back to the jazz club. Is this what my heart wanted the ending to be? Yes. Realistically, could this have been the ending to La La Land? No. The movie itself, the audience, and the characters all deserved the best ending this movie could have. An honest ending. And that is exactly what was provided. Mia and Sebastian shared in a beautiful love with one another. Through this love, they each discovered who they truly were as people (footing in the clouds), allowing them to pursue what they originally set out to do. Without this love, Mia would not become a movie star and Sebastian would not have his jazz club. On the other hand, if they were to stay together, Mia does not become a movie star and Sebastian would not have his jazz club. Would I have reached that conclusion on my own? I hope so. But La La Land does not fall short on story-telling elsewhere, so it only fits that it would provide us with a complete ending. That is why the final scene is the best scene in the film. Sebastian and Mia know each of their lives took the best possible path. They know this would not have been possible if they never met. Nor would it have been possible if they were still together. And La La Land shows all this without saying a word.
How is a movie titled La La Land honest and real? By capturing the real emotions of falling in love with enchanting dance scenes. By letting the characters find who they were in each other, but not losing who they were to each other. By allowing the characters to achieve the goals they had. And by giving the audience an honest ending, not just the ending that felt best walking out of the theater.
My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. Do you think Gosling and Stone deserved their commendations? Were you as captivated by the Griffith Observatory scene as I was? Do you agree that the movie honored its viewers and performers with that bold ending? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!
Next week: Let Me In