La La Land has gotten a lot of very good press and tonight may be awarded the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture comedy or musical. I, on the other hand, left the theatre saying “meh, but the costume design was really fun.” My 19 year-old companion nailed it for me when he said, “perhaps they should have re-evaluated their professional goals in order to achieve a happy relationship instead of re-evaluating their relationship in order to achieve their professional goals.” After a couple of days I realized that what really bothered me about La La Land is that it amplifies – in cinemascope and beautifully designed Technicolor – every myth about what it means to be an artist in the US that I work every day to debunk.
First, it is not necessary to move to LA or New York to have a successful life as an artist. It is necessary to do so to have a Hollywood career as a movie star, but Mia could have stayed in her small Nevada town after her LA stint and created, for example, an after school theatre program in the library across the street and positively impacted her community.
Second, having a successful career as an artist doesn’t mean doing just one thing, like touring in a jazz fusion band when you don’t want to. Sebastian could have bundled his night gig in the jazz club into a portfolio career that included, perhaps, a part time administrative job with the Jazz Society of LA.
Third, having a successful life does not necessarily mean putting your professional goals first. It instead means viewing your professional and personal lives in symbiosis with one another. That my 19 year-old companion recognized this immediately, gives me hope for his future happiness, which is very important to me (full disclosure: I’m his mom).
There are more myths to debunk, but I’ll stop here. And, I don’t want to imply that the movie wasn’t any good – it is beautiful to look at with two engaging stars who themselves are beautiful to look it, but remember that Hollywood endings, even alternate ones like in the movie, are Hollywood endings; real life is richer, more complicated, and has infinitely more possibilities for artists.