SPOILER ALERT, FIRST WARNING: The last section of this article is titled “THE REAL POINT OF LA LA LAND and contains comments that might give away some aspects of the ending of the film. I try to avoid stating the ending in plain language, but you will likely figure out the basics if you read that section. Fair warning.
The 2016 movie is a celebrated musical that won a slew of awards, (seven Golden Globes, six Oscars), and is often described as a “romantic drama”. It tells the story of two young people struggling to get ahead in Hollywood, who meet and encourage each other’s aspirations while they get involved with each other romantically. It is an absolutely fantastic musical, with fun and beautifully memorable music and lyrics of all kinds. Here is the trailer:
The movie features one of my all-time favorite scenes of any kind in a movie. After Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) have become aware of each other by literally bumping into each other – sort of – Mia spots Sebastian in a band performing at a Hollywood summer pool party, here is the scene:
The scene initially features a character named Carlo who plays a talkative Hollywood wannabe writer who is portrayed by the real life Jason Fuchs who really is the writer of Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and other smash hit movies, yet you’d really have to look to find out that tidbit of information; it’s a joke that is made funnier by how subtle it is.
But the heart of the scene is when Mia requests the band to play I Ran (So Far Away), the top ten hit from the 1980’s iconic Flock of Seagulls. It is a great song but there is no question the keyboard riff it features is about as simplistic as you can get, it’s largely a simple scale. In other words, for the pretentious Sebastian, it is about as insulting a song request as possible, a fact that is obviously intended by Mia and not at all lost on Sebastian, who is forced by circumstances to initially pretend to be emotionally moved by the simple scale, after which he seeks out Mia and confront her on the obvious taunt. The entire scene might be something only a musician can appreciate – especially a musician familiar with 1980’s pop music. I love it.
SPOILER ALERT, SECOND WARNING: FROM THIS POINT ON you might encounter hints that give away the ending of the movie. Proceed at your own risk.
THE REAL POINT OF LA LA LAND
I think a lot of people misunderstand La La Land. This scene, which is the second song into the film, tells you the point of the story.
That song is called “Someone in The Crowd” and is about four aspiring actresses going out for a night on the town in Hollywood hoping to meet someone who might be influential in their various budding careers – someone in the crowd might just be the person who can lift up their careers. As the movie progresses, Mia – one of the four – gets generally bored or frustrated with the party and leaves, and on the way home stumbles on a unique musical sound that draws her into a club where she meets Sebastian. And as the story progresses, it becomes apparently that Sebastian is that “someone in the crowd”, only he wasn’t at the party – yet if she hadn’t decided to go out that fateful evening, she wouldn’t have met him, so in a way – he absolutely was that “someone”.
In the four years since La La Land was released, I have read countless articles that go on endlessly about the romance between Mia and Sebastian, and where the romance goes, or doesn’t go, and why the film is or isn’t great because of the romance. I have friends who love the music – everyone does – but some get frustrated over various aspects of the romance, and how they think a romantic film should evolve and where it should go.
But I have never seen anyone speak accurately to what the film itself is saying.
This isn’t film about a romance. It is a film about two aspiring Hollywood types who encourage each other to realize their professional dreams. They might happen to have a romance along the way. But the romance isn’t the point. Their professional aspects are the focal point of the film.
If you listen to the film’s “Someone in The Crowd” song and realize that Sebastian is Mia’s “someone”, the entire movie makes perfect sense. I am surprised that I haven’t seen that rather obvious point established in any reviews I’ve read.
And the music is fantastic. This movie deserves all the awards it has received. Great, great film.