I saw La La Land this weekend, and I’m conflicted. I wanted to love it and I did enjoy it. It’s a beautiful movie with charm and humor…but something felt a little off. It took me a while to figure it out (and that says something about the movie, too–that I’m still thinking about it). Ultimately, it was a plot thing that bothered me–it didn’t feel satisfying. But first, the good stuff–what I enjoyed about La La Land.
A Classic Feel
I loved the throwback to old Hollywood glamour. I’m a classic movie fan so I was looking forward to La La Land. It certainly delivered on that aspect. It had the look and feel of a picture from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The movie itself was gorgeous—amazing colors and interesting locations. #Stunning.
The theme of what happens when dreams bump up against the reality of relationships and responsibility was an interesting topic to explore. When does pursuit of a dream become a foolish obsession? When does compromise become selling out? But La La Land doesn’t stop there. It also touches on the low points of the creative life. Mia voices the pain creative people feel when they put their work out there and it’s rejected. She also articulates the self-doubt that’s a part of creating. Sebastian’s feelings about jazz illustrate another aspect of the creative life, inspiration. As a writer who is inspired by Golden Age mystery fiction, I totally get the dichotomy of admiring great work from the past while trying to do something fresh and new.
And I have to list the stars. I love Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together. #Bonus
What Didn’t Work For Me
The writer/plot-person/storyteller in me balks at the ending. I don’t have a problem with a bittersweet ending or even a down-note, but the ending felt off to me. What was the obstacle that kept Mia and Sebastian apart? Their own ambitions? Plenty of people have long distance relationships. If these two people were so perfect for each other—he helped her dream big, and she helped him see where it was okay to compromise (#ChickenOnAStick)—why couldn’t they have had a long-distance relationship? Mia and Sebastian couldn’t call, FaceTime, Skype or WeChat? Obviously, Mia had time to meet someone else and have a baby so she wasn’t totally focused on her work—and it was only one movie in Paris, not a lifetime.
I’ve read comparisons of La La Land to Casablanca, but in Casablanca Rick and Ilsa couldn’t be together. The barrier between them was real (#husband), and giving up Ilsa was part of Rick’s redemption and character growth. At the end of La La Land we don’t have anything so noble, only ambitions achieved and no solid reason why they couldn’t be together.
The end wasn’t satisfying. And when the end of a story isn’t satisfying it throws a shadow over the rest of the story, but I hope that the popularity of La La Land kicks off a whole slew of throwback movies because the world can always use some more old fashioned glamour.