So about two weeks ago we finally saw La La Land — though not at the theater; we
watched it in our family room on BluRay. Bought the CD at the same time.
I really enjoyed the movie. I enjoy the CD even more. I’ve been listening to it a lot, even with a
free trial of Sirius in the car and a new all-Beatles channel (18 on the Sirius channel guide). I
love the eclectic mix of styles and the emotion that is behind all the pieces. Emma Stone and
Ryan Gosling aren’t Broadway-quality vocalists, but they’re both passable (Stone is better than
Gosling, I think) and can stay on key. And they too convey the emotions of their acting
performance in their vocal performances.
If you don’t know, the movie is about two young dreamers, an actress (Stone) and a jazz musician (Gosling) chasing those dreams and finding each other, supporting each other, and falling in love. It was the ending that really made what would have been a good film into a great one, in my opinion.
Don’t read on if you don’t want some things about the movie spoiled for you.
Okay, that’s enough space. So, the ending…
As a viewer, you go through the entire film watching the relationship of Emma Stone’s Mia and
Ryan Gosling’s Seb (short for Sebastian)build up from their awkward first meetings to their
budding romance to, finally, Seb’s missteps (betrayal seems like too strong a word) as they both
chase their dreams. They have their inevitable breakup, and then Seb gets a call from a woman
looking to audition Mia for a starring role in a big motion picture which will be filmed in Paris.
He has to go find Mia, and convince her to go for it. She does, and does well, and then the film
cuts to five years in the future.
We see Mia basically being the star, going to the coffee shop where she used to work. From
there, she goes home, where waits the baby and her husband. She looks pretty happy. She has it all, a family and her dream career.
But the husband isn’t Seb. It’s someone else!
So she and the husband are going out and leaving the baby with a nanny, and they get off the
expressway and end up wandering into a jazz club.
The logo at the door, the name of the club, is SEB’S. It’s the logo that Mia designed over five
years ago. They enter and find a table to watch the talented combo play some old-school jazz.
After the song concludes, the owner of the club comes on and it’s no surprise that it’s her old
love, Seb. He sees her and they lock eyes right before he sits down at the piano. And he plays
the opening notes of the song that’s run through the entire soundtrack: Mia and Sebastian’s
Theme. It’s a pretty song, with some intricate piano runs and a haunting melody, and it takes Mia back.
And we see in her mind that she’s back in the club where she first encountered Seb. She
wandered in after an unfulfilling party, and she hears him play this song. Right after the song
finishes, the manager fires Seb for not playing the Christmas music he’s been hired to play. She
goes to compliment him and…
Back then, he rudely bumps into her as he storms past and out of the club.
This time, he passionately embraces her and kisses her, in her dream, and their life together, a life that did not come to pass, plays out in her mind. They go through their life, hit their milestones, and there are two distinct changes: One, Seb turns down John Legend’s character for a job in his powerhouse band, and two, Seb is there, front row, at a packed house for Mia’s one woman play that she’s produced and starred in. (The first time, the house wasn’t packed — there were only a couple of people in it.)
She nails the audition, and the baby is still there, but now Seb is the husband and father, and
they’re leaving for a night out, and they end up in the jazz club, but it isn’t “Seb’s” any more.
They’re audience members watching the band. And then it fades and we’re back to Seb playing
the final notes of the theme, and Mia is still sitting next to her husband (played by Tom Everett
Scott — hey, she ended up with Skitch, the drummer for the Wonders and an aspiring jazz player
in the movie THAT THING YOU DO).
They get up to leave, and there’s a sadness about it, but then she looks back and her eyes meet
with Seb’s eyes, and they smile, a knowing smile, and it’s over.
So what happened?
I read some comments that suggested that in Mia’s daydream, Seb was the one who made all the sacrifices. He doesn’t join up with the powerhouse band that has a big hit and is doing huge
venues and pays well. He doesn’t end up with his jazz club. He just follows Mia on her career
I read another comment that suggested that during the movie, Mia was always the one supporting Seb. She watched him perform multiple times during the film, and he never saw her, even at the play that he missed because of a photo session for the band.
But why is Seb in this band that clearly isn’t the kind of music that he loves? There was a phone
call early in the movie where Mia is talking to her mother about Seb and describing his job
prospects, and Seb hears it and I think he gets the idea that Mia wants him to do something like
this band, to be very successful.
It seems they’re both doing stuff for the other one. Miscommunication? Maybe. But throughout
the movie, they’re both chasing dreams. Seb’s dream of owning his own jazz club where he does things his way seems to be a longshot without the band that he’s part of. Mia’s acting career seems to be a longshot if she doesn’t do her dream project of the play. It’s Seb’s one “selfish” act of not attending the play because of a photo shoot that he’s forced into that pushes them apart, and maybe makes them realize just how important their own dreams are to themselves.
In the end, the smile says that they recognize what they’ve done for each other…helped each other to achieve their dreams, but at the expense of the dream of having each other. And maybe they could have had each other also, but that would have come at the expense of either Seb’s or Mia’s dream.
Are they happy with this? I think the smile they share at the end shows that they’ve at least
accepted it. In an interview about the ending, Emma Stone said, “”I don’t know that they
necessarily couldn’t have ended up together. I think these two characters help inspire each
other’s dreams and the way that that unfolds means that they can’t end up together but that their love isn’t any less important. I was talking to somebody the other night and he said that ‘What I really love about this story is that in the end, even though she’s happily married and has a baby, that this movie celebrates those loves that came before and that they’re just as important as the love you have now.’ It’s about how important each person is in your journey in wherever you’re going.”
So they know that without each other, they would never have achieved their goals, and they’re
better for having known each other and having loved each other.
It’s a deep ending that provoked a lot of thought in me.
I’d love to hear comments about the movie in the comments to this post (assuming anyone reads this).
As I said at the beginning, I really think this was a great film that will stand the test of time and
will be enjoyable to watch years down the road…and will probably inspire a few people to follow
their own dreams.