La La Land won a Golden Globe in every category in which it was nominated–7 in all, breaking the previous record of 6 wins held by both One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Midnight Express. It tied All About Eve and Titanic‘s record for most nominations at the Academy Awards (14). On Oscar night, it won 6 awards and, briefly, held the title of Best Picture champ until it was revealed that Moonlight was the actual winner. In contrast, Moonlight went home with only 3 Oscars. Rotten Tomatoes scores La La Land at 92% fresh and I cannot adequately describe the enthusiasm for the film that crowded my newsfeed on Facebook last year.
But one critical fact remains: La La Land is a garbage movie.
All About La La Land
Mia and Sebastian are young dreamers. Mia is a struggling actress whose foibles at her coffee shop day job are like those people who literally can’t do anything in infomercials. She’d better make it as an actress because she’s clearly not suited for anything else. Mia has been auditioning since she moved to LA at fifteen and is beginning to wonder if she’s going to make it. Sebastian is a crotchety jazz pianist who refuses to see that his chosen art form is too unpopular to be practical. He also refuses to adapt his beloved music to make it more popular, because, in his mind, compromising is tantamount to selling out.
They meet when Sebastian gives Mia the finger. I’m not kidding.
They meet again at a lavish party and love is in the air. Mia gets dewy-eyed while he mansplains music and passive aggressively criticizes her for compromising. Then Sebastian compromises his own dream by going on tour with the only black person in LA and becoming successful. This causes tension with Mia because her own goals mean she can’t run off to meet Sebastian’s tour at the drop of a hat (what a bitch, right?). Sebastian is so afraid of not being successful that he alienates the only woman willing to put up with his bullshit. He doesn’t need Mia–she had the audacity to remind him that he once had a dream to open his own jazz club. Can you believe the nerve?
Mia pratfalls through staging a truly terrible one-woman show. Too bad hardly anyone shows up and she has to move back to Boulder City to live with her parents because she can’t afford to pay the theater. Sebastian doesn’t even show up because he got stuck in a photo shoot and cell phones apparently don’t exist.
Improbably, freshly dumped Sebastian gets a call from a casting agent who was at the show and wants to audition Mia. Because grand romantic gestures make better set pieces (and cell phones don’t exist), Sebastian drives to Boulder City to whisk Mia off to her audition. The casting director asks Mia to tell a story, so Mia sings about her alcoholic aunt who imploded her own life and died miserable pursuing her dreams. And this is supposed to be a heartwarming, inspirational song. Seriously. The alcoholic aunt who lived in her liquor and died with a flicker is supposed to tell you to pursue your dreams so you can be like her.
Five years later, Mia is a successful actress with a husband and a daughter. They go out one night and stumble on a crowded jazz club, which of course turns out to belong to Sebastian. As he performs, Sebastian and Mia stare at each other and have an elaborate fantasy about what their relationship would have been like if they weren’t terrible people. That sounds harsh, but that’s what it is: the fantasy reimagines crucial moments in their relationship so one of them said something supportive and not hurtful, leading to a different outcome. But it’s just a fantasy, and they really are terrible people. When the song is finished, we are returned to Sebastian’s bar and Mia, after one last smile at Sebastian, leaves with her husband.
Why Is It Garbage?
Because it doesn’t matter what might have been when Mia and Sebastian are terrible people who were terrible for each other. I don’t understand how anyone could think they were destined for each other. I remind you: they met because he gave her the finger. That’s not a meet-cute. That’s a meet-fuck-you-asshole. He doesn’t get better. This is another story about a good-natured woman who falls for an asshole, and it’s supposed to be romantic because she might be able to save him. The whole “save him from himself” storyline needs to die in a fire and any female character caught in one would be better off striding into the sunset with what’s left of her dignity.
If anything the fantasy at the end only reinforces how wrong they were for each other–like how the final episode of Seinfeld pointed out you’d been watching a series about horrible people for nine years. You’re probably supposed to feel sad wondering what might have been, but there’s no point. Mia and Sebastian were never a good fit and were always too consumed with what they felt they were owed in life to allow another person in any way.
Not to mention that the entire premise of the movie is hopelessly shallow. It’s about pretty young white people basking in the privilege to be dreamers because they feel entitled to a better life. This is compounded by the fact that the only black character is played like a remorseless sell-out. For crying out loud, in one part the white amateur musician mansplains jazz to the successful black guy and we’re not supposed to stop and wonder what alternate universe this is!
Oh, and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are not great singers and not great dancers, either. There, I said it.
I can’t with this movie.
Long Story Short
The central crisis in La La Land is two white people living in a whitewashed LA and frantically wondering what will happen if they don’t get what they want out of life. The girl is meant to be relatable and lovable because she’s clumsy and the guy is just a douchebag. Those are the reasons this is a garbage movie.
Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be a cinematic expert, and I don’t believe my opinion is worth more than anyone else’s. I am well aware that the majority of people loved this movie–all I offer here is a contrary opinion.