La La Land received a lot of buzz from critics and audience alike. It received a total of 14 Oscar nominations and won all of the seven categories in which it was nominated in the Golden Globe. It also got 10 times the amount of its budget in the box office. As a result of all this praise, many wonder what is the reason behind all that.
Before dissecting what makes this movie so great for a lot of people, we need do understand some things.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
La La Land tells the story of Mia – an aspiring actress – and Sebastian –a frustrated jazz musician who wants to open his own club. An amount of unexpected circumstances leads them to crossing each other’s paths more than once. In one of these situations Mia enters a restaurant only to find Sebastian pouring his heart out playing a song of his own. Mia is instantly enchanted and when she tries speaking to him he outright ignores her. That is one of the many moments in the movie where the script plays with our expectations and that’s an important aspect of understanding how an arguably cliché story differentiates itself.
The initial animosity between them fueled by this encounter soon turns into love. The movie then follows the pursuit of their respective dreams and the struggle that comes with at the same time trying to maintain a relationship.
The soundtrack and the actors
Ryan Gosling an Emma Stone have an undeniably amazing chemistry. This along with the amazing soundtrack helps create empathy for the characters. Despite the exaggerated nature that comes with bursting out songs and dancing out of the blue, every musical moment is delivered in a seamless manner. The songs feel like less of a distraction and more of an important way to showcase the characters emotions through the power of art.
It also helps that the soundtrack can be both fun and extremely beautiful and touching at the same time.
The search for true art
One often forgotten aspect of the movie is the characters’ resolution, especially Sebastian’s, to find true art. Sebastian wants to open his own jazz club because he thinks this genre is an art form worth preserving. When he enters Keith’s band he loses his sense of self. Mia sees this, which makes her wonder what happened to the man who convinced her to write her own play and didn’t care about public opinion.
Similarly, Mia’s journey is one of a young woman finding herself through her art. She goes from aspiring actress, auditioning for stereotypical roles to casting directors who couldn’t care less about her, to a true artist, capable of expressing genuine emotion in her roles.
In one of the most emotional scenes of the movie, Mia auditions to some people, one of them who actually saw her perform at her play. She draws emotion from a personal experience. For the first time she is really doing that for herself, not for others. She’s ready. So is Sebastian, who’s now free from the illusion of success and willing to pursue his real dream.
Our protagonists are on a crucial moment of their lives. So, what happens now?
Mia gets the part she auditioned for, so now she has to move to Paris. She and Sebastian talk, and he insists she must accept the role. Though uncertain of their future, they profess they will always love each other.
Five years later we see that Mia achieved success and is a famous actress. Soon we find out she’s married to another man and has a daughter with him. One day they go out and stumble on a Jazz club, that happens to be Sebastian’s club. Mia sits amidst the crowd, and
Sebastian sees her. After delivering an anxious speech, he starts playing their song.
At that moment Sebastian speaks through their music about all his feelings and wishes. We see a retelling of their lives as if everything had worked out and they were still together. Mia and Sebastian look at each other and smile, both recognizing the love they had for each other.
Finally! Why people love it?
La La Land is a movie about hopes, dreams and love. It pays homage to the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Many point this as the reason of its success, naming nostalgia as the key factor for it.
The movie’s success is not purely based on nostalgia. Many movie viewers couldn’t even feel this, since they had no contact with old school musicals. The real secret lies in its themes of dreams and the choices we have to make in life.
We all dream. That is what keeps us moving forward. Dreams are what makes us fight for ideals with the potential to change our lives and the world forever. That is why Martin Luther King’s Speech “I have a dream” is so iconic. It relates to this intrinsic part of being human.
To free ourselves from external expectations and succeed in that which we truly love is what every single person wants. La La Land shows us that dreams are possible, but they almost always come with a price.
Choice is a part of life. We make choices everyday that define the direction of our lives in both small and big ways. The characters not ending up together works as a means to show that we rarely, if not ever, get everything we want. Even if we are extremely successful we can look back and find something we wanted but could not have. The feeling of being in conflict with your own choices and absences is a universal one, and that is what touches so many people deeply.
In the end we must be able to look at our past, like Mia and Sebastian did, with a smile. We must see that every choice we made at the time was the best we could do. So, the movie presents a final choice. Will we dwell on our past and be miserable about it? Or, will we be grateful, smile and dream even more than we dreamed before?