2016 was a shitty year. Not all of it of course, but between Brexit, Syria, the US presidential election, et al. even the biggest dreamers among us are starting to let go of their hopeful views on the world.
With world politics shaky at best, Global Warming percolating, and financial security starting to seem like a relic of generations past, it's easy to see why La La Land swept everyone - audiences and critics alike - off their feet. It's warm, it's gooey, it's full of hope.
Going in, I was expecting to come out with a mile-wide smile on my face and a sudden urge to hit the nearest jazz club. What surprised me was how hard it would hit me. Sure, there was singing-and-dancing aplenty, which had me nodding my head and tapping my feet enthusiastically, but man, this one was heavy on the heart too.
Chazelle is fascinated by the idea of suffering for your art (see also the incredible Whiplash), and La La Land feels like a continuation of this meditation on creativity vs stagnation, dreams vs reality, relationships vs individual fulfillment. Should we, as Gosling's Sebastian muses, "just grow up" for the sake of financial stability, or should we keep chasing that which makes our hearts beat faster?
Without giving too much away, the part that really hit me right in the feels was Mia's (Emma Stone) final audition:
Here's to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that ache
Here's to the mess we make
I'm a lucky dude. I have a job I don't despise, a supportive family, a not-too-shabby roof over my head, I'm in a loving relationship, and I've got great friends that would listen to my bs at 3 in the morning if I asked them to.
And yet, ever so often, I can't seem to shake this nagging feeling that I'm not living my full potential, that somehow my best years are wasting away. As I sit behind a desk for the majority of the day, others are dedicating their lives to creating something, pouring their heart and soul into something, mending their broken hearts by making them into art, as Meryl Streep so poignantly quoted the late Carrie Fisher in her Golden Globes speech.
This notion of giving your all to something - even if it comes at a cost - to feel so strongly about something, whatever that something may be, that you're willing to drop everything else and live on nothing but your ambitions... this credo has sunk its hooks into me and won't let me go. And, much like some things can't be unseen, some ideas can't be unthought. Once they take hold of the mind, it's only a matter of time until they become resistant to defiance, until they eventually become... you.
And what to do when they do? To me, there's only one real solution. Some might call it naive, reckless, gullible. I call it being a dreamer. And if there's one thing the world undoubtedly needs more of in this time of cynicism and doubt, it's dreamers.
Photo: Summit Entertainment