Tara insisted I go see La La Land with her and I didn’t plan on doing a La La Land analysis, frankly. I wanted to go see the film, enjoy it, and let that be that in keeping with the reticence theme of this year-long social media hiatus. Especially since I have an analysis of Arrival, Dr. Strange, AND every episode of The OA brewing.
But after seeing the film, I can’t not do a La La Land analysis. Or at least give some quick passing thoughts. Spoilers, as always.
The thesis of the film comes out of Ryan Gosling’s (Seb’s) mouth:
Hollywood worships everything and values nothing.
I nearly lept out of my seat when he said that. It was one of those statements that drops like a coin in the arcade machine of your mind and gets the pieces to moving. I couldn’t help but think that’s so true. And it played out in the film, didn’t it?
Some people had a hard time with the ending: either one of them loses their dream of work or they both lose their dream of relationship, but you can’t get both. You can’t have it all. At least not in this life. Time-bound, mortal creatures have the ultimate in creative limitation: the limitation of death. As immortals, we might be far more patient with one another and ourselves in pursuit of valiant goals. But as ones who must one day die, we admit the passing of even some dreams that others may live.
We get two reels at the end. A cut. B cut. Director’s cut. Studio’s cut. And the film ends up becoming something like a humble rebuke of hollywood culture. You can’t get the girl AND open the jazz club AND help her become an actress AND provide for your family AND have a kid AND… AND… AND…
That’s where most Hollywood plots leave us.
Not La La Land.
Unlike the films and culture it critiques, La La Land worships only one thing and therefore values every contingent thing. The thing it worships is the desire behind every desire — that surprising Joy that C.S. Lewis hinted at — and you see it in the smiles they have in both timelines, the contentment, and the realization of a loss of what could have been.
But what could have been and what is work in tandem to help us value the road chosen.
May we worship the end of all desires, worship the source of joy, and therefore return value to every path.