Living in a "La La Land"
Oscar buzz and my girlfriends' excitement motivated me to watch La La Land this past week. I was moved and dazzled by the music and the raw emotion. There are several themes the movie explores: love, freedom, dreams, fear and seeking. I wanted to discuss some of the questions that came to mind as I watched the movie and journeyed with the characters.
Do I love the Illusion or the Reality?
The main characters, Mia and Sebastian, fall in love and are literally in a “la la land” where love seems instant and things seem easy. They are in the “Honeymoon stage” where everything is rosy and exciting. But eventually real life sets in. Playing house gets boring and when sacrifice is involved, it gets uncomfortable. Mia and Sebastian never define the relationship so they don't know what they mean to each other. The long distance, and the pressure of their careers becomes overwhelming and their commitment to each other is uncertain. They don't know if they should prioritize their dreams or each other. It is true that we want to be believed in. We want to be understood. Love is layered but the characters just skim the surface. But when you’re in a similar relationship like Mia’s and Sebastian’s, the illusion of love can be deceptive. Sometimes we think illusions are better than reality. But true love isn't easy, it must be fought for. Reality can be felt, tested, and experienced. Illusion is only momentarily experienced and then gone forever. When we are interested in someone, it can be easy to have fantastical expectations and live in a "la la land" instead of focusing on reality. Reality is uncomfortable, unpredictable, painful and we are caught in a tension of who we are and who we want to be.
Side note: I loved the nod to chivalry - it was beautiful to encounter a man wanting to honour a woman through a dance, opening a door and wooing her. Chivalry is back in fashion and I'm thrilled about it.
Should I stay or should I go?
At the end of the movie, Mia sees Sebastian years later and she is a famous actress, happily married mother and happens to enter Seb’s jazz club with her husband. Mia is faced with a dilemma- do I succumb to nostalgic regret and pine for Sebastian? Do I rack my brain and wonder: what could have been or what if we ended up together? Or do I politely acknowledge the memory and the intimacy of the encounter and move on? I feel great respect for Mia when she is asked by her husband if she wants to stay at the club or leave, she says she wants to go, she pauses and smiles at Sebastian to acknowledge his part in her past and she makes peace with it. Mia leaves with her husband and embraces her new life.
What do My Passions say About Me?
What sets you on fire? What pulls at your heart? Reawaken your dreams. We are tempted to throw away the “pipe dreams” but this movie reminds us to not water down your passion and settle. Sebastian says very eloquently that “this is the dream, it’s conflict and its compromise- it’s very, very exciting!” Dreams are terrifying and they reveal our insecurities and fear of failure but only when we try will we truly know what could have been. Mia was tempted to settle and pack up shop when her play wasn’t an instant hit but instead of wallowing forever, she decided to keep trying at acting and she finally succeeded. Be fearless and keep those who believe in you close – Mia was inspired to keep trying because Sebastian believed in her. Fulfilling your dreams can be lonely if you do it alone. We need each other. Remind people of their passion. We are responsible for each other and we need to love each other. It is important to know what you love and what your passions are but also ask yourself what God wants. Take those questions to prayer. God knows the desires of your heart and He wants to fulfill those dreams!
What do I Desire?
This movie is nostalgic for the glamour of the traditional and yet pines for the limitless opportunity of the modern. The characters crave for the traditional- bring back the old, bring back the Jazz, the manners, the class, the old movies, the chivalry. In a modern culture that "worships everything and values nothing", Mia and Sebastian ache for more. They ache for a legacy. They want to be remembered and they want to be loved. Our yearning for beauty, love, music, and to fulfill our dreams point to what we are made for. Feel the ache. Soak in the desire for the infinite because it is what we are made for. The key sign that we are alive and are feeling our humanity to the core is the restlessness that we feel in our bones.
We can’t ever have it all and that’s okay but as long as we strive for what is true, good and beautiful and dare to hope, we will be just fine. So “here’s to the ones who dream… here’s to the hearts that ache.”
These questions are powerful and I invite to ask yourself these questions. What you love is who you are – what do you love and what does that say about you? What are your passions? What are your desires? Don’t stop searching for the truth. Keep seeking for the answers because seekers find.