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La La Land


The recently released movie La La Land from director Damien Chazelle, featuring actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is stunning. 

lalaThe singing and dancing explode on the screen and the human body is portrayed through dance in its full beauty.

Ryan Gosling plays a charming, charismatic jazz pianist, and Emma Stone is an aspiring actress full of motivation and drive.  Both are dreamers.  Ryan Gosling's character, named Sebastian, finds it hard to pursue his dream of opening a jazz bar.  Emma Stone's character, named Mia, is fiercely trying to make it into acting.

The first half of the movie plays like a typical romance.  Boy meets girl, and they fall for each other in a very pure and playful way.  They have beautiful scenes of getting to know each other, in which they are falling in love with each other's personalities, and not just the immediate sexual relationship.  They share their pasts, their dreams, and their passions for jazz and acting with each other.

However, about in the middle of the movie their relationship seems to take a wrong turn.  They start living with each other, and Sebastian takes on a job he is not passionate about.  He is postponing his dream of opening a jazz bar because he overhears Mia talking with her mother about his unemployment.  He tries to support her in her pursuit of an acting career, but with his new job, is unable to often be present.  They spend less time together, and have a hard time connecting.  Finally, Mia gets a big acting job in Paris with Sebastian's help, but they decide that she should go alone to pursue her dream and they will part ways.  When she returns years later, she is married with a child, and Sebastian has opened his jazz bar.  They both seem sad at the end, when they run into each other.

Fulfilling Dreams

I'm not sure what message the director and writer, Damien Chazelle, was trying to convey.  I am sure the movie is open to many interpretations, and it certainly has been making many people talk.  One of the most striking themes for me was the fulfillment of dreams.  Both characters are furiously trying to fulfill their childhood dreams through a profession.  In the end, they both succeed but still seem unhappy.  I wonder if the title is alluding to this imaginary world in which you achieve your own personal dreams, but you are out of touch with reality.

Both characters seem to truly fall in love with each other, but fail to build a lasting relationship.  They somewhat support each other in fulfilling their dreams, but seem to do so autonomously, alongside each other.  They are each pursuing their own dream.  They are not pursuing a dream together.  They seem like business partners, but with different businesses.

You Are the Other's Adventure

Both characters had their own adventure in life which was apart from the other.  Neither sacrificed his or her own dreams and aspirations to build something together.  In true love, the other person is your adventure.  The other person opens up a whole new world that you never knew existed, and you live dreams that are better than you could ever dream yourself.  Life's adventures, professions, passions, hobbies, experiences, etc.  are the clay, and you and your loved one are the potters.  Or maybe a better analogy would be that you and your loved one are the clay and the life's adventures, and experiences are the water and the materials used to mold you throughout life into something new and wonderful and two-in-one.

John Eldredge writes a fascinating book called Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul.  In it he says, "Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue."  Like all the classic stories about princes and princesses, a man should take the woman onto on his horse, and they should go into adventure together.  "A man needs a much bigger orbit than a woman.  He needs a mission, a life purpose, and he needs to know his name.  Only then is he fit for a woman, for only then does he have something to invite her into."  And also, "Eve is a life giver; she is Adam's ally.  It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given.  It will take both of them to sustain life.  And they will both need to fight together."

We Were Together, I Forget the Rest 


This is a print that I got for my husband.  It is a misquoted Walt Whitman poem verse.  The original is actually, "Day by day and night by night we were together, — All else has long been forgotten by me."  It is similar, though.  I got this for my husband because it reminded me of something a missionary couple that prepared us for marriage taught us: what you do together is not lost.  My husband and I led youth groups and went through a youth ministry training while we were dating and were unsure if it was worth it.  With the help of this couple, we realized that if we were doing it together, it would always be worth the time and effort.

I feel like this is what is missing from the movie La La Land.  The two characters don't make being together the utmost priority and aren't able to walk alongside each other.  I can't tell if that is what the filmmaker was trying to get across, since they are truly sad and regretful at the end, or if that was just my interpretation.

Whatever the case, La La Land is a beautiful, aesthetic movie and very thought-provoking.  It picks up on the great themes of spousal love, dreams, passion, disappointment, and vulnerability.



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Julie Machado. "La La Land" The Catholic Stand (March 2, 2017).

Reprinted with permission of Julie Machado. 

The Catholic Stand is an e-publication presenting essays and creative non-fiction, offering substantive resources with thoughtful insights into how to live the Truth that the Church teaches, owned by Little Vatican Media.

The Author

machadoJulie Machado is a 30-year-old Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal to study theology. She now lives there, along with the rest of her family, her husband and her children. She believes the greatest things in life are small and hidden and that the extraordinary is in the ordinary. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

Copyright © 2017 The Catholic Stand

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