La La Land: A Film About My Love/Hate Relationship with Los Angeles

Yesterday, my cousin and I went to watch the Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The theater allotted one of the larger auditoriums for the film, which I attribute to the media buzz that has been surrounding the film, but when we arrived, we found this unnecessary as there were only six other people in the theater, a strange turnout for a Saturday afternoon.

I preferred the empty theater; I’ve found it makes my laughs and tears more genuine when they’re not prompted by the responses. With this meager audience, it was all the more true. My cousin and I seemed to be the only ones that found parts of the movie funny, sad or upsetting. There was little more than silence from everyone else.

When Whiplash, Chazelle’s last film, was released in 2014, I couldn’t wait to watch it, and I can’t say my sentiments were the same when I first heard about La La Land. Despite its stress-inducing visuals, Whiplash seemed incredibly engaging from the release of its first trailer. I was surprised when I heard Chazelle’s next film would be a lighthearted L.A.-based musical and even more surprised with the first trailer. No amount of buzz got me to the point of obsession I reached leading up to Whiplash‘s release. However, now that I’ve seen it, I admit that La La Land was a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

As Crazy, Stupid Love taught us, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make a great on-screen couple, and La La Land confirms this as the two sing and dance themselves into an uplifting relationship. Their banter, which continues into the film’s musical numbers, keeps the film moving forward and the film’s plot never stops to let its audience’s minds wander at any point. It’s a simple film telling a simple story, but despite its predictable end, it was, ultimately, refreshing to be shown the struggle of living the artist’s life in L.A. and told that, if you’re a certain kind of someone, it might even be worth it.

[Minor spoilers ahead]

My cousin and I were both overwhelmed by sadness as the credits rolled on screen–not only because the film was at an end but because the consequences of the characters’ decisions were not the fairy tale for which we had naively hoped. When the lights began to raise with the credits,  the film was nicely summarized by one of the older audience members as she rose from her seat. “That’s life,” she laughed to her friend, as they walked out of their aisle. And I would have to agree.

La La Land provides a vision of the life of dreamers in Los Angeles–a life, I’ve personally chosen not to live. But I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t, for a second, convince me to continue dreaming. The story is so uplifting that, until the end, dreams almost become more realistic than romantic, and reminds the retired dreamers in the audience that even when after choosing a stabler life, we never stop dreaming.

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Let Me Tell You A Story

Once There Was A Little Girl

Once there was a little girl from the Southern United States, and one day, she realized that at some point in her life, she was going to have to decide to be something. So she started to search. How do you decide what to be? she wondered. Money was important. This much she knew. So she searched online high-paying professions, though in more words because she wasn’t yet sure what such “being” was called. A veterinarian, she decided. This is what I should be. She liked animals. (They were cute.) And it made her sad when they were hurt. So why not be the person who fixed them? But one day, she accidentally caught a glimpse of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and decided that being any sort of doctor was too gruesome for her (but again, not using such a big word).

Now this little girl’s favorite uncle was an author and illustrator of children’s book, and he was her favorite because he was cool and would draw her pictures and sneakily put her name and her cousins’ into his books. I like drawing, too, the little girl thought when her uncle came over once. Maybe I should be an author and illustrator like my uncleSo she tried this too. Her art teacher at school taught her basic book binding and she would write stories and draw pictures. But she never seemed to have the patience to finish these stories or pictures enough to develop her craft, and soon this pursuit was dropped as well.

Much of the little girl’s life continued like this. She thought about many professions, including news anchoring, website designing, and being the lead singer of an alternative rock band (which was eventually discarded as a result of her waning interest in alternative rock). It wasn’t until early high school that the little girl found what she really wanted to be–this time knowing to call it profession.

She had another uncle–one who had married into the family and who she also deemed “cool.” Unlike her other uncle, this one was pursuing the profession of authoring books for adults, but he also had an extensive knowledge of film (the critical side, not the technical). He would talk to her about film every time she was visiting and tell her all the amazing new films coming out and why they were important. She hadn’t realized before that film could be so intricate–that it could reach so many people in such a deep way. I want to do that, she decided once and for all. I want to make movies and share my thoughts and feelings and experiences with the world around me.

Since then, the little girl has been trying her best to learn all she can about film, and she has come to find how related it is to many of the other things she tried to pursue and many of the things she now enjoys. She’s not where she wants to be yet (and as she’s learned from her recent viewing of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, she probably never will be) but that’s okay because there will always be room for improvement. All the girl hopes to do now is take what she loves and do it, and she’s decided that maybe she’ll write about it along the way. Maybe like once a week. (But really, she will. That’s what this blog is for. Just FYI.)

I don’t think I need to tell you: that little girl was me.