I didn't really have my hopes up for La La Land, the supposed nostalgic musical that actually has songs, tap-dancing and a Bollywood-style opening production number.
I heard that the songs kinda petered out in the later part of the movie. And then I heard about the unbearable whiteness of it.
So it is a special pleasure to say that everyone enjoyed it, from 88-year-old grandma to us baby-boomers.
I liked it because I consider it a truthful exploration of what it means to be serious about being a Person of the Creative Self. See my Three Peoples theory. I particular, I offer my "Which Gods Do the Three Peoples" Believe In,"which talks about the problem of creative people, because their god is the creative self. You can see that making yourself into your god has special problems. I write that:
A Person of the Creative Self must submit to the creative process, and accept that very few people that aspire to works of original creation actually succeed in that Olympian ambition, just as very few aspiring Olympic athletes get to participate in the Olympic Games.
In my view the great question of the age is how should you live as a Person of the Creative Self? One of my items in the bill of indictment against our liberal friends is that they like to think of creative artists as special children of the gods that must be supported in their ethereal pursuits via government grants and exemption from the laws of ordinary folk. So the liberal line is that We are the People of the Creative Self and you will like it.
This liberal conceit is a lie. The truth is that the life of creation is hard and will probably end in failure. Think of it as a start-up company. You may have a good idea, but probably you don't, and it will take years to refine your idea into something that might change the world.
So Damien Chazelle's La La Land gives us Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a keyboardist and Jazz purist that wants to open his own Jazz club. That ain't gonna be easy, pal, especially with your attitude. It gives us Emma Stone as Mia, a good little middle-class girl from Boulder City, NV, who is working in a coffee shop and doing auditions. Sebastian drives a clapped-out V-8 convertible from the 80s, and Mia drives a Prius. Hey, there's a Prius joke in this movie!
The question is how these two are going to square the circle of their creative projects, their unrealistic expectations, their endless failures, their desire to stay together, and to maintain the line that each has given the other about their commitment. And where does commitment to the project meet commitment to each other?
At the climactic moment where Gosling has to go back on tour tomorrow and Stone has to fly to Paris to become a movie star they choose their creative careers over each other. But the director does not flinch from showing that they are breaking each others' hearts as they tell each other that "I will always love you."
But both these kids are white kids. That's the whiteness problem raised above. Of course they are. Unless you are a social justice warrior, the central question for nice college-type middle-class kids of any race is do they follow their dream to become videographers, or do they get jobs? So all the lefty memes have nothing to do with the case. The movie could have cast an interracial couple, but that would have foregrounded the race question rather than the creative question. The movie is about the path of the creative life, not about lefty poison politics.
So last weekend La La Land expanded to 1,848 screens and moved up from #5 to #2 movie at boxofficemojo.com. That's really great. It seemed to me that the kids were excitedly discussing the movie in the halls at the Boca Baton multiplex after the show.
There are lots of charming things about La La Land. What do you think a girl does when she changes out of her high heels sitting on a bench up in the Hollywood Hills after a party? She pulls out her tap shoes of course, and then she and the hero can dance some soft-shoe on the asphalt overlooking the valley in the moonlight.