With the Oscars almost upon us, and because I haven’t had time to watch a single Oscar-nominated movie from this year, I figured there was no better way to start this column than to critique “La La Land.” While the film’s nomination last year resulted in one the of the most awkward awards ceremonies ever, the movie’s message about the struggle of balancing career ambitions with the promises of love struck a chord with viewers like myself.
In the movie, Mia, an aspiring actress, falls in love with Sebastian, a talented pianist and a true jazz fanatic. The two start their relationship off by hating and teasing each other, but soon enough, they fall in love. Now, anyone who has seen this movie — and perhaps many others who’ve had it spoiled for them — knows how tragic the ending is. The two soulmates are torn apart by their career goals and become forced to live a life of what-ifs. The worst part is, Damien Chazelle makes sure to put some salt on the wound and show an alternate universe where Mia and Sebastian would have ended up together.
While I am inclined to say Damien Chazelle may be slightly sadistic, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say there’s a greater purpose for this scene. It seems that in today’s society, individuals are becoming more and more attached to their careers, putting their professional lives ahead of their personal lives in many cases. According to a Pew Research Center study, there has been an overwhelming increase in the median age at first marriage, jumping from 23 to 29 for men and from age 20 to 27 for women. The median age for unmarried Americans has almost doubled over the last 50 years. While this statistic is great for women pursuing a college education or looking to advance their careers, Chazelle shows his audience the flipside, perhaps warning the viewer of the consequences that may stem from putting one’s romantic life on the backburner. In some way, it’s almost as if the director tells his audience to follow their heart, but only if their heart is telling them to go chase after the one they love. It’s as though Chazelle is chastising Mia and Sebastian for their greed in finding career success, leading them to a live a life of emptiness.
I realize it may seem as if I were only throwing shade at Chazelle for his more traditional view on love, but I find the direction he took to be an interesting contrast from modern times. It appears that the inspiration Chazelle took from classic movies managed to transpire into the movie’s overall plot, almost as if the movie was made in the ‘50s, but set in present day. As a result, Chazelle combines classic romance movies with today’s modern views on love to create a film that tells its audience that sometimes — in the wise words of Hannah Montana — you can get the best of both worlds.
Overall, “La La Land” shows us the ability — and lack thereof — to balance one’s personal and professional lives, and metaphorically speaking, to have your cake and eat it too. However, just like Mia and Sebastian, many individuals may not see this as an actual possibility, but rather — like the movie’s main song “City of Stars” suggests — as “one more dream that [the audience] cannot make true.”
Regardless of one’s views on the movie’s significance, we can all look forward to this year’s Oscars and argue if the winners truly deserved their awards. Happy Oscars and may the best picture win!