Foolish Dreamers: Why I Hated "La La Land"
By Matthew Castro
My wife and I finally went out on a date for the first time in awhile. My mother in law watched the kids. We had dinner, and I suggested we go see La La Land at the movie theater. I am a rare breed, who enjoys musicals. I also am a fan of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. So case in point, I was looking forward to seeing the movie.
The movie begins with a cool dancing and singing scene on a Los Angles freeway. I thought to myself immediately, “I am going to love this movie.” It is a beautiful film. I love jazz music. I was reflecting on jazz during a scene in a jazz bar. Jazz is not simply people playing instruments. The instruments are in a conversation. As I was reflecting on that idea, Ryan Gosling’s character, Sebastian, who is a jazz pianist, explains to Mia, played by Emma Stone, that jazz is a conversation between instruments. I thought, “Amen!”
La La Land is a movie that reminds you of the Hollywood musicals of the past. The costumes, sets, music and dancing are full of charm. I felt like I was in the 1960s watching a musical with Audrey Hepburn or Julia Andrews. it is magical in an era where too many movies are gritty and void of imagination.
However, towards the end of the movie, something happens that caused me to change my view. I left the theater hating La La Land. I literally wanted to scream at the top of my lungs in the dark theater surrounded by strangers, “NO!” My wife, Lisa, seating next to me gave a similar disgusted response to the conclusion of a charming story ruined by cynicism.
Warning Spoilers to Follow.
Sebastian and Mia are young, ambitious dreamers trying to become stars in the city of stars, Los Angles. Sebastian dreams of owning a jazz club that helps people fall in love with authentic jazz again. Mia dreams of being an actress in Hollywood.
They fall in love. Director Damien Chazelle presents the excitement of youthful romance. Both are poor and vulnerable. They both have insecurities, but they cheer for each other. I loved the romance. They were quickly becoming my favorite movie couple.
The high point of the movie is Mia singing “The Fools Who Dream” at an audition for a film. She articulates well in the song that her and Sebastian are simply fools who dream. The song made me want to move to L.A. to become a movie star.
Mia earned a prominent role in the movie, but she would have to live in Paris for three months for shooting. Sebastian stays in L.A. working with a rising band. The story flashes forward to five years later. Mia is a successful actress, who married someone different than Sebastian. Mia and her husband wind up at her old love Sebastian’s jazz club called Seb’s. Director Chazelle annoyingly depicts a fantasy sequence in which the audience see a quick alternative history of Mia and Sebastian would-be life together before returning us to reality. The movie ends with Mia and Sebastian having a momentary glance and smile before she leaves his club with her husband.
We are left stomaching the conclusion that a dream or love are two separate paths. Either Mia and Sebastian choose one another, or they choose the dream. I disagree with that conclusion. They could have embraced each other, and pursued their dreams differently perhaps. They may have had to sacrifice along the way, but their love for one another would sustain them throughout their pursuits of their dreams. Could Sebastian’s dream not been fulfilled in a different form, or Mia’s goal of acting be achieved in an unexpected way.
The cynicism of La La Land says the real world does not allow the experience of romance and ambition. We must choose one over the other. Mia and Sebastian are unwilling to sacrifice their ambition to love the other. True love endures all things, bears all things, and hope all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love demands sacrifice. We know love because Christ loved us and died for us (1 John 3:16).
I wanted Mia and Sebastian to be foolish dreamers together. Yet, they failed to dream bigger. They took the path of least resistance.
My wife and I both are ambitious. When we started dating, I wanted to go to seminary in Louisville, KY and she was earning her masters in Nursing at the University of Tennessee. She worked two jobs and was going to class. She did not get much sleep while we dated. We fell in love. We both had to sacrifice to be with each other and achieve our goals. We lived apart for three months, but we were committed to each other. We became foolish dreamers together. Love endures all things, bears all things and hopes all things.
Romance and Dreams do not play well together. However, what a beautiful mess they make together. I think I hated La La Land, because it told my wife and I that love and dreams can’t co-exist. But, we are proof that they do.