Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dance and sing their way through Damien Chazelle’s latest work, La La Land, where they embody Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, both struggling to make ends meet and pursue their dreams in the city of stars. Set in glitzy Los Angeles, this modern-day musical explores the everyday of these two dreamers and what is, in the end, the most important, a once-in-a-lifetime love or the spotlight.
And guess what? They don’t make the right choice.
La La Land is a comedy that should rather be called a tragedy, as it depicts the miserable and pathetic reality of the selfish and self-centred modern world. Although the musical refers to some giants of the same genre, like Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and plenty of others, which all celebrate love and life, Chazelle’s awarded film fails to do the same and actually does the opposite.
Mia and Sebastian make the choice of personal accomplishment and self-satisfaction instead of love. When, during their stroll throughout some legendary Hollywood film sets, Mia points out the window from which Bogart and Bergman gazed in Casablanca, she alludes to a story about sacrifice for love. In La La Land, love is sacrificed for self.
The two main characters help build each other up, only to get lost when the lights are finally shining for them and glory is a fingertip away, and give up on the most precious thing they’d ever have: each other.
But La La Land is a film of our time, one that highlights and spangles the culture of the self with our selfies, our extravagant displays of self-love, and our self-promotion on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and so on so forth, seeking validation from the maximum of people. Chazelle uses the wonderful purple sunsets of the west coast, the glowing Californian sun, an amazing pairing of Hollywood stars, and an absolutely addictive soundtrack to create a beautiful illusion of beauty and a perfect fantasy for a chef-d’oeuvre… when La La Land is, in reality, a tale of two shallow narcissists who didn’t realise in time their closeness was more important than their dreams of fame, success, and glory. It is a comedy that should have been named a realistic tragedy, staging a tragic reality.
Only the counterfactual epilog has the merit to hopefully teach a lesson, that dreams are worth pursuing but to a certain limit, and not if it means losing the people closest to us along the way. In The Muppet Show, Kermit once says to Miss Piggy: ‘maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you, maybe you just need one person,’ and that’s the exact lesson we wish Mia and Sebastian had learnt before it was too late, before they even let that content smile settle on their faces, happy with the alternative paths they had chosen.
La La Land is a very sad representation of our world, but maybe this is also where all of its genius lies…