In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for La La Land, we talk about themes that help us understand the film.
- Ryan Gosling – Sebastian “Seb” Wilder
- Emma Stone – Amelia “Mia” Dolan
- John Legend – Keith
- J. K. Simmons – Bill
- Rosemarie DeWitt – Laura Wilder
- Finn Wittrock – Greg
- Callie Hernandez – Tracy
- Sonoya Mizuno – Caitlin
- Jessica Rothe – Alexis
- Tom Everett Scott – David
- Damien Chazelle – Writer and director
The themes and meaning of La La Land
The Pursuit of Dreams
The pursuit of dreams is a central theme in La La Land, as the main characters, an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician, relentlessly chase their individual aspirations. The film explores the struggles, challenges, and sacrifices that the characters face of actualizing their ambitions.
Mia, the aspiring actress, attends audition after audition, attempting to break into the competitive world of Hollywood. The film illustrates her determination and passion for acting, as well as the countless rejections she faces. One memorable scene that highlights this theme is when Mia performs a one-woman play, which she wrote herself. The disappointing turnout temporarily causes her to give up. It isn’t until Sebastian reignites her passion that she’s able to rediscover it. This displays how determined one must remain in order to actualize their dreams.
Sebastian, the jazz musician, hopes to open his own jazz club and preserving the legacy of traditional jazz. His love for the genre is evident in the scene where he passionately explains its history and significance to Mia. However, in order to make ends meet, he is forced to take a job playing in a band that does not align with his musical vision. This demonstrates the sacrifices and compromises that one must make in the pursuit of their dreams.
The Nature of Love and Sacrifice
The theme of love and sacrifice is inextricably linked to the pursuit of dreams in La La Land. The relationship between Mia and Sebastian serves as a catalyst for each character to strive for their aspirations while navigating the complexities of love and sacrifice.
Their love story is portrayed as a whirlwind romance, filled with moments of joy and tenderness. However, it is not without its challenges, as the characters face the reality of balancing their relationship and their ambitions. One pivotal scene that captures this struggle is when Sebastian misses Mia’s play due to a commitment with his band. This moment signifies the tension between personal and professional aspirations and the sacrifices that must be made for both to coexist.
The film’s ending is a poignant exploration of the theme of love and sacrifice. The characters ultimately choose to prioritize their career ambitions over their relationship, leading them down separate paths. The final scene, in which Mia and Sebastian share a knowing smile, suggests that their love remains, even though they have made the difficult choice to let each other go.
The Power of Nostalgia
La La Land is infused with a sense of nostalgia, not only for the golden age of Hollywood and jazz but also for the lost opportunities and roads not taken in life. This theme is evident in the film’s visual style, which pays homage to classic musicals, and in the music, which evokes the spirit of traditional jazz.
Sebastian’s character embodies the power of nostalgia, as his love for jazz is rooted in a deep reverence for the past. This is demonstrated in the scene where he takes Mia to a jazz club and passionately explains the significance of each instrument and the history of the genre. His desire to preserve this musical tradition showcases the power of nostalgia and its influence on his dreams.
The film’s ending further emphasizes the theme of nostalgia, as it presents an alternate reality in which Mia and Sebastian’s relationship flourishes alongside their professional success. This sequence is a bittersweet reflection on what could have been, highlighting the power of nostalgia in shaping our understanding of the past and present.
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