[This article was originally written as an assignment for my degree.]
As Mia (Emma Stone) stands in front of the casting directors and they ask her to tell them a story, she recalls a story her Aunt told her. The story of her in Paris, jumping into the Seine, and getting ill because of it. But there were no regrets, “She would do it again”.
The camera circles Emma Stone, this is a one-shot close-up of her pouring her heart out. She is singing a song for the dreamers, the rebels, the fools who dream. The lights dim, a sole spotlight illuminates her face. Her dream will come true.
The setting is the land of dreams, Hollywood, the City of Stars. A city made up of legacies, icons, moments, and reveries. It is no accident that the land of romance, Paris, is referenced throughout. The two are intertwined.
Which leads me into the love story. Mia and Sebastian are two souls who dream, but there in lies the problem for their story.
Sebastian’s dream and Mia’s dream could not coexist. When those who are bound to their creativity, and let their dreams take hold find a likeminded soul, it can shine brightly but isn’t sustainable.
Their relationship becomes a memory, a reverie, a dream. Mia tells Sebastian that she will always love him, and when they share looks across the restaurant at the end of the film, I truly believe they still do.
But they learn that for one to succeed, the other must forfeit. And for the passion they both hold, that isn’t fair. The fantasy of them getting married, having children and living happily ever after isn’t reality, it is fantasy. It is Hollywood.
And that is LA LA LAND. The film is a love letter to the screen heroes we don’t see anymore, to the moments that are captured on celluloid, to the stars that we idolise and hold dear. When Mia stands in front of the projected image of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, she is lit like Crawford or Bergman.
What Damian Chazelle does with LA LA LAND is to show that the Hollywood of old, that Mia aspires to (which in turn is the allegory in Sebastian’s obsession with Jazz), is still here for those to look back to. It isn’t lost, it isn’t gone forever.
To go back to Mia’s audition, the sole spotlight is immediate, the one-shot tells the audience that this is happening now. This moment doesn’t cut away to fantasy, to a dance sequence, to a flourish of colour and extravagance. Chazelle is showing to the audience that their dreams a thiers and can be made real.
Even in the land of Hollywood. LA LA LAND.