Fans are raving over the release of “La La Land”, a heartwarming musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. With the typical theme of following one’s dreams, the movie shares the story of a young actress in L.A. struggling to achieve her stardom fantasies. Along the way she crosses paths with a peculiar jazz purist, and though they get off to a rough start, they of course fall in love. Dealing with the struggles of their goals for success leads to a tumultuous relationship that reaches its climax over a year.
As much as I enjoyed the film, especially the opening number that was so well choreographed and performed, the interesting subject to be tackled here is the ‘struggling artist’ trope.
Over the years, millennials especially have grown up with films of spunky young characters trying desperately to achieve fame and success through their art. Whether it be acting, dancing, music, painting, etc., it is no secret how difficult it is to make a career out of these arts. It doesn’t help that often times, young adults are heavily discouraged because the arts aren’t considered a good source of living and are considered “impractical”. Many will set aside those passions as hobbies while they pursue something that promises comfortable and secure means of living. Then there are the few, like those in “La La Land” who have to work themselves to the bones for even just a shot.
Ten minutes into the film we see Emma Stone, running from her minimum wage barista job to a myriad of auditions. Though she delivers a convincing read of the script, it becomes apparent that none of the casting directors casting actually care, and when she exits the room, she discouragingly walks past a line of similar looking red heads. Later, she again finds herself in many auditions, all of them going wrong for some reason or another.
Ryan Gosling’s character, struggles with the constraints of modern music tastes. His dream is to restore the essence of jazz music in his own club where he can play however he’d like, and share that “dying art” with people. Throughout the film, he constantly hits walls when people attempt to “box” his music asking him to change his music to fit the tastes of others. Eventually he compromises his values to attain success, only to realize that this compromise, for the sake of practicality, has destroyed his dream and made him miserable.
The question for struggling artists now is whether or not the pursuit of fulfilled dreams is worth it all. For some, there’s no question, and for others, they save themselves the pain. I wouldn’t say I side one way or the other, but “La La Land” is one of the many films that encourages young dreamers, and it raises these questions: Does it glamorize stardom dreams? Is it right to encourage people? Should we take it as a reminder that our dreams will always be worth it in the end? Adversity will always find us regardless of the path, but for the struggling artist, they face a road of great resistance, and they will always be plagued by this “What if?” question. What if they make it big? What if they never make it big? What if they disappoint themselves and those around them? What if they show everyone wrong? It’ll always be a gamble and we have to make that choice in the end.