Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cinematographer: Linus Sandgren
Producer: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert, and Marc Platt
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
We never get to see Mia’s performance, but living out here I was familiar with the grind. I’ve known of many actors who rent out spaces to put on a performance in order to invite a bunch of industry people, hoping they might like what they see. The sad part is that Mia’s turn out is often how it goes, with everyone having something to do at the very last minute.
Due to a ridiculous photoshoot, Sebastian misses the performance, acting as the last straw for Mia, who has finally had enough, never seeing Sebastian anymore with his touring, hitting a dead end with her acting career, and believing she’s wasted the last six years of her life. Six years. It was a strange number to hear because it’s the exact number I’ve been out at the time of seeing the film. Having pursued my dream of writing and directing a movie, failing to have it open up the exact doors I thought it would, getting rejected from countless festivals and distributors, frequently thinking I want to quit because it’s so incredibly hard - I felt her frustration; as have the vast majority of people I know out here.
After she moves back home and breaks things off with Sebastian, he receives a phone call from a casting director who saw her play as one of the few in the audience. He races back to her parent’s home to tell her, in which Mia gives one of the most powerful monologues about dream chasing I’ve ever heard in a film; not just the words, but the look in her eye; how bad she wants it and the way she talks about the pain. It was here that my emotions boiled up, as I recall all the times when I was at the same exact point, confiding in my girlfriend, dad, mother, and friends - expressing how much it fucking hurts to keep hearing "Sorry, but no". Six years and hitting the nail on the head, of how not just I felt, but how I often feel - this movie came at one of the most serendipitous moments in my life. Two years later, and while things are better, I'm still waiting for that call; just a few inches closer.
Mia goes back for the audition, providing us with the most beautiful songs of the film. She gets the part, and her and Sebastian wrap things up at Griffith Park. Sebastian tells her that she needs to go off alone and pursue the dream. He can’t come with her because she needs to pour all of heart into it. For some reason she agrees and so the two head pursue their separate paths, each pursuing and achieving their dreams.
It was here that the Whiplash philosophy of winning at any cost crept back in. The idea that after they were both with each other for so long, fighting for what they want, and now that it’s finally happened they can’t be with each other seems silly. It might have been their individual talents that got them where they needed to go, but it was their mutual encouragement that allowed them to get there to begin with - for how Sebastian’s club should look and be named, and for Mia to pursue the show at all.
And so, like the climactic shootout in a western, the movie must end with the largest song and dance number, and what I think might be one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen on screen. Often times the concluding song is triumphant. La La Land’s was heartbreaking; playing as a fantastical alternate reality, similar to 25th Hour and equally tragic. We see what could have been, how Sebastian could have joined her, and played jazz in Paris while she began her acting career.
Having watched a lot of Everwood and Dawson’s Creek growing up, so much of me wanted to shout at Mia to ditch the husband and go back to Sebastian, or for him to run up and kiss her. But it couldn’t happen. Such is the cost of chasing dreams. On the one hand I have a girlfriend who would never pose such a problem, and yet I have a family that I never see, who’re getting older, and at only a few weeks of seeing them per year, means I don’t have very much time left in their presence. The sacrifices don’t have to be relationships, but anything or anyone. I think that’s the part of LA that has yet to be captured and one of the saddest parts I've found out here. Whether actors, writers, or musicians, there are countless people in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s still chasing their dreams, and knowing it’s a young person’s town. They know the odds are slowly decreasing with each day. On the one hand it’s great that they’re still going and maintaining their passion, on the other I find it very sad that many won’t ever achieve them at all. So what happens when you break off a relationship with a person you love to chase your dream, only for that dream to never emerge? Is it worth it? I guess that’s another scenario; one I think is a bit too sad for musicals. Or maybe one that’s perhaps needed the most.
BELOW: For all the dreamer chasers out there, this one hits ya right in the gut.
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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