I was disappointed by La La Land.
I know, gasp. Yes, I am going against the critical acclaim of the Academy Awards (not that I actually care) and the opinion of some dear friends (sorry, Katie), but I will say it again.
La La Land disappointed me.
I was extremely excited after seeing the trailers and hearing the buzz. A musical molded in classic Hollywood style? Dancing, singing, and romance? I was so ready for it.
Then I saw it. And it was beautiful. And fun. And then utterly terrible. And I left the theater feeling completely empty.
Caution: Spoilers ahead.
Since seeing La La Land, I've read many different articles about it, trying to understand my own reaction to it. I've encountered a lot of different opinions about the film, both positive and negative. There are plenty of things I could say, both expounding upon or commentating on others' thoughts. But I don't want to get lost in trivialities, and I'd like to focus on impressions that were particularly mine.
I'm Okay That They Didn't End Up Together
Okay, I will admit that, at first, I was furious that Mia and Sebastian didn't end up together at the end of the film. What was the point of setting up a romance for so long and then tearing it apart?
As I thought about it, though, I realized that I'm not really upset that their relationship didn't work. Sure, I got sucked in enough by the bittersweet aura to feel disappointed, but, in reality, they were a terrible match. I liked Mia, but I could never quite bring myself to really like Sebastian. He was a jerk. And, while I do truly believe in the transforming power of love, I'm tired of films that push the appeal of falling in love with someone who doesn't have a strong character. That rarely makes for good relationships, and it's certainly a terrible concept for a Christian to follow. Yet I can hardly think of a popular story that crafts a romance between two people of good character. I'm tired of it.
La La Land created a romance that didn't work, and, in the end, it fell apart. Which makes perfect sense. I'm okay with that dose of reality. As much as I hope that the first man I date will end up being my husband, I know that real life can be messy sometimes. That person you experience a rush of emotion and fairytale feeling (much of the setting for La La Land) with won't necessarily be the person you should spend your life with. I get that. And I think it's good to show that reality in stories.
Courtesy of Pixabay
It's Poor Storytelling to Introduce a New Relationship but Never Flesh it Out
Mia's husband at the end of the film really appears out of nowhere. As I said in my above point, I'm okay with her marrying someone else. Yet we see this new man for all of, what, ten minutes? And most of that time is spent on this crazy, bittersweet dream sequence between Mia and Sebastian! How was I supposed to connect to him in that time?
If the film had given more time to fleshing out their relationship, I probably would have been okay with it. I would have been able to see the contrast with her previous relationship, and I would probably have found myself much happier walking out of the theater. Instead, I felt cheated.
It's just poor storytelling to introduce a relationship like that and expect viewers to instantly root for it. An article from The Federalist explains that the film's director "wanted a film that would try to steal a little of the glamour of Old Hollywood while treating its view of the world as unrealistic and over-idealized. The let-down of the ending is built into that premise." La La Land wasn't about the romance with either Sebastian or this new, never-named guy. Which is a tragedy in my mind. But, regardless of what the story was supposed to be about, neglecting this new character was laziness. And instead of being satisfied that Mia found someone who was actually good for her, I just felt lost and confused.
Courtesy of Pixabay
Such a Focus on Chasing Dreams Feels Hollow Without God
Much has been made of La La Land's focus on dreamers. I'm not entirely sure why, since that's hardly big news. Disney has been pushing "dream big" and "follow your heart" for a very long time now. But, whatever. The movie was very much about following your dreams wherever they take you.
Do you know how sick I am of that idea? This concept that your dreams can take you wherever you want to go, that nothing is as important as fulfilling your dreams, blah blah blah. I'm sick of it!
As a society, we seem to have completely lost track of the concept of duty and selflessness. Another article I read from The Federalist compared the film to Casablanca, that 1940s classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I disagree. Strongly. Casablanca is about duty, sacrifice, and integrity. La La Land is about letting nothing stand in the way of your dreams.
This movie shows two people achieving success by following their respective dreams, but neither of them seems happy as the credits roll and the lights come up. Yet the commentary on the movie doesn't seem to be about the hollowness of that premise – except for the article I mentioned earlier. Instead, everyone lauds the ode to dreamers that the movie represents.
Here's the thing: I don't have a problem with dreams. I believe God gives us each a spark in our heart that we should use to ignite our own piece of the world. But those dreams are meant to be submitted to God's will. They're meant to be used for His glory, to further His kingdom, to reflect Him. Our culture separates God from the dreams and exalts the latter to a ridiculous pinnacle. What happens when we do that? Selfishness and hollowness. Both, in my opinion, are clearly shown in La La Land. But they're showered with a positive aura.
We were not put here on earth to do whatever we want. Stories that say we are just ring hollow. You can say that movies like this do show sacrifice – artists sacrifice for their dreams. That's true. But what's more impactful? Sacrificing time and hard work to achieve what you want or giving up a dream because God has other plans? Those are the stories I don't seem to see.
I want to dream, but I don't want to do it apart from God. My life has no purpose if I'm only living for myself. That's not why I'm here. And when Jesus comes to take me home, I don't want Him to say, "I wanted to work through you, but you were always pursuing your own dreams." I want Him to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
So, there you go. Some thoughts on La La Land. I'm quite sure my opinion doesn't jive with some of yours, but I'd like to hear what you think. Did you see the movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!