It’s my favorite feeling in the world: just going to see a movie and when it’s all over, your life has suddenly changed.
I’ve seen countless films that created a tremendous impact in my life. But I can only name a few that made me feel like a bus ran over me, an avalanche fell over me, or a lightning struck me.
La La Land is one of them.
*Spoilers ahead, definitely.
The ending is my favorite part because I’m a sucker for plot twists. And it’s also the part where the moral of the film hits you to the core.
You know that moment when Sebastian plays the piano and Mia is watching him with eyes that look like they’re on the brink of crying, and then it beautifully transitions to the moment they first meet but with a different end to it, and then you feel like all this time you were watching the movie, it was all just a “what could have been” of the characters?
That part made me think, “Oh, there is such optimism in this world! We CAN get that happy ending!” And suddenly I remember Liza Minelli’s “Happy Endings” performance in New York, New York, where she assures that you can always count on that happy ending in the final scene of anything. But heck, New York, New York doesn’t really have a happy ending. It’s ambiguous, but Minelli and De Niro’s characters don’t exactly get a happily ever after together.
But Scorsese’s remarkable film just told everyone that’s how life goes in New York.
Which is why New York, New York is one of the films that birthed La La Land.
*If you want to see New York, New York’s Happy Ending scene, it’s on Vimeo, right below. You will notice the parallelisms of this and the final sequence in La La Land.
So here comes the thing that messed everybody up: from that happy ending sequence of La La Land, Damien Chazelle transitions you back again to Seb’s club and you’re awestruck.
It threw me off guard, honestly. And I think a number of people would attest to it as well.
All at once, your hopeful spirit has been snatched away from you and you’re given what’s only a few minutes left of the movie to try to absorb your own shock, and make yourself emotionally stable.
Some say it was Mia imagining how her life would have been with Sebastian, or the other way around, or both of them were imagining it.
I beg to differ that it’s neither.
I actually saw it from the perspective of the director and writer, Chazelle. What’s important here is to take note that he both wrote and directed it.
I felt like when he transitioned it to the happy ending sequence, he was telling us, “Here’s what you actually want to see instead of what’s going on right now.”
And when he transitions back to what you now know as an inescapable reality, the moral of the film is emphasized more like it’s the elephant in the room.
Hypothetically, Damien Chazelle wrote it like this:
“Mia and Sebastian have made both of their dreams come true and their paths have crossed once again. But what could have happened if they made different decisions and everything turned out well?”
And this is how he directed it:
“I want to tell people the truth by depicting it this way:
A dream sequence that will make people think it’s the real reality and make them feel the adrenaline of fulfilled dreams. I want the next five minutes to have nothing but happy endings so people will feel like they’re floating on the clouds because dreams get you so high, with your feet off the ground, that sometimes, we need someone to snap us out of it.
So to wake them up, I’ll cut back to Seb’s as a big slap on the face that that’s not how dreams work. The audience will realize their emotions have been played and what they thought was already going to be a happily ever after for both characters is suddenly taken away from them.”
Simply put, the transition back is Chazelle’s metaphorical and cinematic slap on your face that depicts the message of the film:
You’re going to have to give up a lot of important things if you want to achieve your dreams.
And that’s the awful truth.
If you were to ask me, Mia and Sebastian both had happy endings…just not together. They chose to make their dreams come true and they did; that’s what’s important.
The film created a significant impact to me because of this moral. Dreams are all about sacrifice. And I know what it’s like to sacrifice some things to get on my way to achieve my dreams one step at a time, may it not be as big of a sacrifice that Mia and Sebastian had to make.
Those are the two most beautiful words that when put together, set your sacrifices ablaze.
I learned from philosophy class that we always have a choice, and there’s no such thing as an “I had no choice”. The two words “had to” is still a choice. More so, it gives the sense of urgency, and how badly it’s needed to be done.
In Filipino, it can be translated as, “Kailangan, eh.”
I don’t think those phrases are a negative thing that implies force, but rather, it implies how willing you are to adapt, adjust, and accept anything life throws at you, because life does not always go according to plan. And more often than not, you’re going to have to be open to the ambiguity of it all. That’s the reality La La Land showed us, no matter how whimsical the movie looked.
Personally, I cried countless times the whole time my mom and I were watching the movie, but the part when I really poured out every ounce of my tears was Mia’s audition scene. Emma Stone sang “Audition” by Justin Hurwitz, the film composer. And I held on so tightly to every word she sang.
In the first part of the song, there are lyrics that go:
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine!
The water was freezing, she spent a month sneezing
but said she would do it, again
And that was the moment I began pouring out and thinking, “THAT IS SO ME. IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.”
Then towards the end, the last chorus part goes:
And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy, as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make
And ya girl just lost it. I was ugly crying at this point.
But also, I liked the aftermath of watching this film.
When Mom and I were walking out of the cinema, she asked what I thought of it and if I liked it. I just nodded because deep inside, my emotions were still trying to cope with the incredible impact the movie just inflicted on me. I couldn’t put into words how much I loved it, that even telling her “WOW, IT WAS AMAZING!” wouldn’t even suffice to bring justice on describing how the movie made me feel.
And the she suddenly said, “Nakita kita sa character ng girl eh. Ikaw na ikaw yun eh. Naka-relate ka ba sa kanya?” (“I saw you in the girl’s character. That is so you. Did you relate to her?”)
Oh my gosh I became a mess even more.
Deep down I was thinking, ‘Mom I was crying the entire time–OF COURSE I DID.’
But that’s not where the discussion ends, though. She suddenly asks if I imagine myself doing the same thing–being an actress and all–because she can see that I have the potential to be if I wanted to. I tell her not exactly. Then she asked in a really motherly supportive way,
“Ano ba dream mo? Ano ba ang gusto mo talagang gawin?” (“What’s your dream? What do you really want to do?”)
I NEEDED A MOMENT.
THAT QUESTION. THAT QUESTION JUST OPENED UP A FREAKING GATE AND MY HEART AND SOUL WERE JUST LIKE:
My dear readers, you have to understand that I am not very open about talking about my dreams because I have been told before that they are too far-fetched, ambitious, crazy, seems impossible, not achievable, and unrealistic (SEE THIS IS WHY I CRIED IN MIA’S AUDITION SCENE SO MUCH).
Good news is I don’t believe them because once we believe in the people who tell us we can’t, that’s when we lose and we really won’t make our dreams come true.
I don’t get asked that question as much as well. But I love that question. Doesn’t “What do you really want?” just make you want to explode and be free to talk with passion and with no inhibitions? Especially if the one you’re talking to is not close-minded?
So that was probably the first time I told my mom what I really wanted.
AND GUYS DID IT FEEL GOOD.
I FELT RELIEVED AND HAPPY AND NOT DISCOURAGED AND FREE AND EVEN BRAVER TO ACHIEVE IT LIKE OMG THIS WAS MY AURA WHEN I LET IT ALL OUT
So personally, La La Land just opened up a discussion between me and my mom and it was the most encouraging thing, because sometimes even though dreamers can believe in themselves, they also need believers that will make them braver so they can take bigger leaps of faith to make their dreams come true.
Again, emphasizing that this my favorite feeling in the world.
Just going to see a movie and when it’s all over, your life has suddenly changed. ❤
Kudos, to Damien Chazelle for creating a spectacular film. I remember watching Whiplash and thinking a seasoned director made it, but it was apparently this up and coming young writer-director. I mean clearly if you’ve written stuff like, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job'”, of course you’re bound to become an Oscar winner. Bravo!
Shout out to Justin Hurwitz as well for an amazing soundtrack. You sir are the reason why our emotions went out of control while watching the movie and I am placing all my bets on you to win Best Original Score at this year’s Oscars.
This film took 6 years to make, and that itself is a manifestation of what the movie is all about. Dreams may take time, but not impossible to make a reality.
Cinephile Becky out! 😁