I saw La La Land for the second time last night because, yes, it was that good. It was right up my alley; a movie about following dreams, romanticizing life, and it was tied all together with a nostalgic, vintage feel of an old-school Gene Kelly movie. And there were a lot of hints and talks of Paris, so you know those were bonus points for this Parisian-at-heart.
There are a few themes in the film that I want to talk about, but I’ll do so in a spoiler-free manner because the content focus here is a commentary on dreamers and dreaming and not on the film. This won’t be a review, I’ll just tell you to please go see it. Even if you don’t like musicals, go give it a shot. It doesn’t have the same overarching feel of a musical because the music is really just a feature to tie the story and messages together. It’s used as a tool of storytelling in the film, but not in the same manner of modern musicals (it’s not like High School Musical or Grease).
I cried when I watched this movie. I cried both times in silent little whimpers, and I would have cried more but I’m one of those people who try and hold that lump in her throat when she’s out in public so she doesn’t become a blubbering disaster. The movie warmed my heart and made my heart break, all because of the self-reflection it created as the story progressed.
Alright, here begins a stream of consciousness response to La La Land themes…
Firstly: I cannot imagine what actors who move to LA must go through trying to follow their dreams. I cannot imagine how soul-crushing it must be. You really feel the hopelessness in this movie. I once felt the pull to “that life” as a youth (but it was crushed in high school by students running the school play). I wanted to move to New York and perform on Broadway. I remember the secretary in my elementary school (Mrs. Clarke) had me sign a piece of paper because she said I would be famous one day. I had two dream roles: Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Ariel in The Little Mermaid on Broadway – hence why I dyed my hair bright red come high school.
I didn’t follow that dream because I knew I couldn’t be faced with the disappointment it brought. I knew I couldn’t watch myself fail a hundred times over and still be motivated and driven to follow through. It was at that point that I realized maybe those weren’t my defining dreams; it wasn’t what I really wanted in my heart of hearts. Perhaps they were dreams set up for me because I was told how good I was at it. Were they ever my dreams at all?
Maybe that’s what pushes dreams into the “goals” category: the desire to pursue them despite the possibility of constant failure. It’s the underlying feeling I have with regards to moving to Paris, France. I know I won’t be able to afford to buy a house, city-centre, but I’m fine with renting. I know I’ll have to let go of a lot back home, but I’m fine with that too. I know I might have to settle for a mediocre job at first, and that’s okay. I know it may not be everything I envisioned from the comfort of my home and based off of my trips there, but it’s worth the risk to me. It’s worth losing a lot just to find out. I’m willing to deal with being disappointed. I wasn’t ready to do that with my Broadway dreams, so does that make my Paris dreams more realistic?
Second, I want to make a comment about love: there is foreshadowing at the opening sequence of the film about the importance of fleeting glances at passionate love. Especially when you’re young, you become dreamers with one another, you push one another, you fill the drive to dream with excitement, with support, etc. But it’s when those relationships no longer fuel your dreams that you need to begin to let go of them. The same could be said about adult relationships. If they’re no longer passionate, if you don’t bring about ambition in one another, a push to be successful, the motivation to be better versions of yourself (whatever that may be for each person), is there a point to the relationship? There was a quote I read once; something along the lines of, “There are too many mediocre things in life, love should not be one of them.” I’m not saying that the “honeymoon stage” be a constant stage you remain in, in your relationship. There is no logic or reality to that. But there should always be that push to grow, there should always be that support that drives you to greater things, to being a better person, to following dreams. If you aren’t dreaming together, are you truly living together?
There is a purpose to all relationships in our lives. Even my worst relationships have helped me grow and recognize what I want in life, what I need in a partner, where I need to take myself to become happier. It’s okay to dream about “what could have been” if things had been different, but it’s important not to live in those fantasies. Don’t stop that constant pathway of growth with “if only”s. We cannot change the path we already traveled down but we do have constant control over how we shape and create our future. Get up off that ground; the morning rolls around and it’s another day of sun!
The constant theme of growth and change throughout the film, shown in many different lights and ways, really resonates with me.
Third, I want to comment on the subtle hints at dreams being traced back to Paris in this film. You know that hit a deep chord within me. Do all my dreams exist separate from Parisian dreams or do they exist because of my love and passion for Paris? Does Paris help shape this romanticized image of how I want to live my life because Paris is this beautiful, romanticized place, in and of itself? Am I living for Paris or am I living for me? Are they one and the same? These are all questions I have been reflecting upon. I don’t have answers for them, yet.
Alright, I’m done for the morning. I might come back to all of this again.
Please go watch La La Land. It’s so captivating, just as dreams are captivating.
Post Scriptum: my poetry page has been updated, today.