“Welcome to Seb’s”: Success as Heartbreak in La La Land
Print Music Editor Bridie Adams discusses success in La La Land and the film’s heartbreaking ending.
La La Land poses an interesting question: which is more valuable out of love and success? The end of the film demonstrates that for protagonists Mia and Sebastian, it is the latter. However, this by no means lessens the sense of heartbreak present in the final scene – the drawn-out eye contact and the small, tearful smile the two central characters share. The true love story in La La Land turns out to be the love between the artist and their art.
If you haven’t seen La La Land, you should. And don’t try to tell me that you “don’t like musicals.” If you love musicals, watch La La Land. If you hate musicals, watch La La Land. Trust me, it’s worth seeing. It’s nostalgic yet unique, and it has something in it for everyone – whether it be the music, the romance, the cinematography or Ryan Gosling *heart eyes*. For those who haven’t seen this instant classic, let me fill you in (with pretty major spoilers). Mia, an aspiring actress, crosses paths with jazz musician Sebastian and, after a rocky start, they fall in love. The relationship doesn’t work out due to the central problem that they are both more committed to their respective aspirations than they are to each other. They end up achieving their life-long ambitions, with Mia being a successful Hollywood actress, as well as having a husband and a daughter, and Sebastian owning his own jazz club. This is at the cost of the pair’s love for one another.
In La La Land, success breaks hearts. It is up to the individual viewer to decide whether this heartbreak is worth it for the accomplishment of dreams, but I say that it is.
A happy ending to the film would have been perfect. It would have granted all our wishes as an audience and satisfied us to know that Mia and Sebastian were living happily ever after as well as living the successful lives that they want. But maybe this would have made the film less memorable. After all, one of the main things about La La Land that resonates with me, personally, is that ending – the heartbreak, the bittersweet acceptance of how things are and the accomplishment of personal goals. Ultimately, La La Land is a film about relationships – relationships with others, oneself and one’s dreams. It is also hugely about priorities and deciding what is truly important.
The film’s best-known song ‘City of Stars’ is particularly significant and fitting to the story. It may not be as catchy as ‘Another Day of Sun’, nor as emotionally moving as ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’, but it captures a sentimental feeling that blends perfectly with the film. The piano leitmotif in the song is recurrent in the film and symbolises romance and love, making it a powerful piece of music. It sounds soft and delicate, mirroring how Mia and Sebastian’s fragile relationship is torn apart by their ambitions. It gorgeously foreshadows the film’s ending, and its melody is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.
In La La Land, success breaks hearts. It is up to the individual viewer to decide whether this heartbreak is worth it for the accomplishment of dreams, but I say that it is. Although the ending nearly always makes me cry, as we see a montage of a world in which Mia and Sebastian may have ended up together, it’s clear to see that both characters obtain what they really want. Their main priority, their main dream, was never each other. But that doesn’t make it any less sad.