That Movie Experience: La La Land

Then it hit me, a thought-provoking revelation, all thanks to La La Land…

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Image result for la la land theatrical poster

Why La La Land was my favorite movie of 2016.

When details surrounding La La Land were first released I, admittedly, was not too interested. A musical about an unfulfilled jazz pianist and an aspiring actress chasing their dreams in the unforgiving city of L.A. seemed like the type of film that could quickly bore all types of movie-goers…

As the opportunity was presented to take a trip to a nearby theater and watch the film, which at this point, was already being pegged to win best picture, I sat in my seat and thought about what other musicals I had watched. Deep in thought, questioning if I had taken the time to watch such classics as, Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story, or even Les Misérables’, I realized that musicals were indeed a major hole in my film repertoire. In other words, my first experience with musicals was La La Land, a film that I fully anticipated would put me to sleep by the time the first big number ended.

Well I was wrong…

The lights dimmed, the shuffling of the audience ceased, and the film began. From the first frame, I was hooked. Never did I think that a traffic jam on the 101 could be so captivating, to the point where, I wished I could join in on the action and dance atop of my piece of junk Honda Civic, or  that watching a jazz pianist play with such virtuosity could make me desire the same ability.

But was the impact that the film had on me really constructed through the spectacular spectacle of the music, performances, directing, lighting, etc., or was there something more, something that lingered deep inside my own experience, something that suggested familiarity and a significant note of pure relatability. As I left the theater and drove home, singing “City of Stars” the whole way, I couldn’t help but think about what had transpired in my own life rather recently.

Before…

As if it were a bizzaro version of La La Land, I was playing music when she walked in, but instead of Piano I wielded a guitar, and attempted to sing. It wasn’t long until I realized that she was someone I wanted to get to know better. She had a sense of humor like no one else, a contagious laugh, an engaging intellect, and a smile that, though cliché, lit up the room.

We loved each other’s company and were content with simple nights of movie-watching. Constantly, we ventured off and explored the little area of the world our pockets permitted us, however, regardless of location or activity, being together was always enough…

Fast forward to…

A month prior to my viewing of La La Land, my relationship with her unfortunately deteriorated. Through its conclusion, there was an established understanding, made clear through our equally shared affection for one another, that life was taking us in two different, individually necessary, directions. I was going left and she was going right. I was going to school in New York and studying screenwriting while she, at the same time, was in Virginia studying accounting. We were two people with our own uniquely individual goals that would, through accomplishment, give us a powerful sense of self-satisfaction, fulfillment, and approval.

When I watched Sebastian and Mia, in the third act of the film decide to, as Seb puts it, “Wait and see” about their relationship. I couldn’t help but recall a similar conversation that I had experienced when my own relationship ended, one that that ultimately concluded with a parallel sense of melancholy.

Yet it was this melancholy; my own, which held an interpretable  meaning that alluded my recognition, or better yet, was blatantly ignored for hopes that this new reality would suddenly become untrue. Was I just sad about losing somebody I loved or was it that the dreams we had planned out together, ones that looked not at the present, but rather the future, had become completely trapped in a world of what could have been? I’ll say both…

So…

Never before had the words of a movie character jumped, with such haste, off the big screen and into my life…”Wait and See”… As corny as it sounds, Sebastian’s idea of “Waiting and seeing” gave me a much needed dose of comfort, reassurance, and even encouragement. Not only did it suggest a type of hope that could make me forget the still fresh break up, it also suggested that to dwell on the heartache would be unfavorable to the existence of my dreams and the potential that resided somewhere inside of them. To “Wait and See,” means, to me, putting in time to watch something happen; whether beneficial or detrimental…that of love or separation, success or failure. It’s that chance to see experiences and have them move through “us” like emotions, to the point, where we are changed, affected, and heartwarmingly touched.

Then it hit me, a thought-provoking revelation, all thanks to La La Land. Having been in my relationship was a perfect practice of “waiting and seeing.” The two of us, didn’t really know each other, but regardless, decided that we should give it a shot and see how it goes. I would be lying if I wrote that being with her didn’t change me, that the experience of connection and love didn’t affect me in an enormous way because it did. This idea, that seemed so fresh; “waiting and seeing,” was something that I’d been practicing for a long time, but was clearly oblivious to.

With this new-found recognition, moving past the looming melancholy seemed to be something I could attempt without fear…and here I am, in school, studying to achieve my dream of being a screenwriter, knowing that it is all in reach if I “wait and see.” Maybe She and I will run into each other and just like the end of La La Land share a quick moment, a quick smile that recognizes our past, but also our paths moving forward. To be honest, I hope for that moment.

And while La La Land hasn’t generated a new passion for musicals, it gave me something, I feel, is much more useful. The film gave me a needed realization, understanding, and ability to grow. A movie I thought was going to put me to sleep became a moving piece of art that completely changed my life for the better…

 

-Reddmond Perone