The Message of La La Land

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

lala land

It should be said that I was never a skeptic. Perhaps because I had watched Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together in Crazy Stupid Love and already knew the onscreen chemistry they would share. Perhaps because there was something shimmering and magical even in the trailer that was out months and months ago, something that made me say to myself, “I want to write a novel that makes people feel the way that trailer just made me feel.” Just the trailer. So when the movie released I was certain to see it, soon, and several times.

I didn’t have to be convinced, and yet I was still surprised by La La Land. From the vast opening number with people dancing and singing for miles, to that last look, I was captivated. But more than that I was moved by what–to me– was the message of the movie. I expected the singing, the dancing, the chemistry, the colors. I just didn’t expect the message woven into the story. Because typically musicals are for fun, not thinking. And yet, this movie has left me thinking for weeks.

What was the message? Well, I don’t want to say too much for those of you who may not’ve seen it. So I will just say this: If you have a dream (“Here’s to the ones who dream”), you should go out and do something daring. You should take a risk. You should be different, swim against the tide. You may not succeed in the way you initially envision success. But in the risk you will find success you didn’t see coming.

As a writer, I’ve played it safe and I’ve taken risks. And the risks have paid off far more than the playing it safe. Sure, the risks were scarier, bolder, more vulnerable. Sure, some have blown up in my face. But some have changed everything and that, as Robert Frost said, has made all the difference.

If you’ve seen the movie, this will make sense. (Or, I hope it does.) And if you haven’t seen the movie, I hope that the message of La La Land will intrigue you. Because my bet is, you have a dream. (Or, I hope you do.) And dreams, like anything, have to be fed to survive. This movie feeds dreams.

So I hope you’ll go see it. I hope you’ll get past whatever misgivings you may have about musicals, you won’t listen to the people who say they don’t like the ending (it was, after all, the ending the story demanded), and you’ll go get lost in the movie. And along the way, you’ll be inspired by the message. Inspired to go dream your own dreams and take your own risks. And occasionally, because this life demands it, break out into song.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

7 Responses to The Message of La La Land

  1. Heather Adams January 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I really need to see this movie!

  2. Marybeth Whalen January 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    Yes you do!!

  3. Susan Meissner January 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    Well said, Marybeth! I loved this movie, including the ending, for so many reasons. The very definition of la la land is ‘a fanciful state or dreamworld.’ We have to find a way to meld our dreams with reality. Or our reality with our dreams. That is how we make a life.

  4. Susan G. January 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve already had a conversation with my adult daughter about La La Land, and we decided we need to see it! I love Ryan Gosling (don’t tell anyone…I’m a grandma) and ever since The Notebook I knew I would love to see him perform in movie after movie!
    Thanks for the insight! This just gives me another shove towards that movie theater! 😉

  5. Camille Di Maio January 21, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I love this movie. Thanks for the post – I Tweeted it!

  6. Kevin January 22, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    The message is more layered and dark than you suggest. The movie also suggests that in pursuing dreams you will make sacrices, and that your relationships will suffer and that life won’t turn out perfect as audiences or you would dream. It suggests that the pursuit of dreams is messy, and that the dream of the ultimate love could be sacrificed on the alter of ambition. It suggests that in following a more practical life path, you could preserve ultimate love. And, the movie, as says the title, tells us that dreams don’t really come perfectly true in real life, but come with pain and regret… and that only in movie fairly tale LaLa land does everything turn out perfectly as we dreamed.

  7. Marybeth Whalen January 22, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    Kevin, you’re exactly right. It is about all those things. I saw it a second time yesterday and noticed even more. It’s one of those movies that gets better every time.

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