What I loved most about “La La Land,” besides everything, was its basic message: that there is beauty in our world, and all of us have access to it.
A friend of mine — one with a talent for both turns of phrase and seeing the darkness in just about anything — once described me as “pathologically optimistic.” I took it as a high compliment; optimism is my default setting. No “resting b— face” here — I have resting nice face. Mostly, it means people ask me for directions a lot.
The main characters in “La La Land” could probably relate. Sebastian and Mia, played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, are both struggling performers — he’s a jazz pianist and she’s an actor. Both are unabashedly in love with what they do. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy or fun; instead, it’s like a long marriage, where sometimes it seems like the work outweighs the joy, when in fact you only get to the joy because of the work. Still, they share a purity of focus and a fundamental optimism that their talents can add good and beauty to the world.
Usually in movies, we’re told that only someone who’s special in some way, who’s somehow supernaturally chosen, has something to contribute. Here, while Sebastian and Mia are both talented, they’re not preternaturally so; they are, like so many artists, hoping that the confluence of talent and skill and timing might combine to ignite their careers. They are what all of us can be, what we should be — doing our best, and believing, really believing, that our best might be something pretty special.
It’s that “might,” I think, that keeps me going, that enables my optimism to remain standing during those times when it’s shaken. I might inspire good, so I do good. I might inspire passion, so I am passionate. I might inspire hope, so I hope. And hope, when it comes to humans, is always the smart bet; it is what keeps us going when we have nothing going for us.
So often struggling artists in movies are on the edge of cynicism, but Sebastian and Mia believe in themselves and in their work and in each other so much that it’s nearly impossible to leave the theater without embracing and celebrating their passion and, ideally, adding at least a bit of it into real life.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby