I’ll pick two bits of dialogue to kick off things. First is this observation by Sebastian about the denizens of Los Angeles:
“They worship everything and they value nothing.”
When my wife and I heard that — mind you, we lived and worked in L.A. from 1987–2002 — we both looked at each and nodded our heads. Los Angeles is an amazing city, but there is this veneer which permeates the entertainment industry, a thick strain of surface level living. Which lays the groundwork for this exchange:
Mia: Maybe I’m not good enough!
Sebastian: Yes, you are.
Mia: Maybe I’m not! It’s like a pipe dream.
Sebastian: This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!
The entertainment industry! Sounds so glamorous. And for many, it is some of the time. For much of the time, it’s an uneven grind.
It’s like you have the sheen of glitz and bright lights. It’s all around you. And yet take a walk down Hollywood Blvd — the street which is named after Hollywood itself — and you get a taste of the grit, grime, and tawdry nature of the city.
So there’s BOTH and not only both, but both in ABUNDANCE. It is conflict and it is compromise and it is very exciting.
To try to work in the industry, you have to dream. That is your fuel. And you have to live with the dichotomy of glamour and grime, of glory and grit, of a town which worships everything and values nothing.
That dualistic experience is one of the things I think La La Land does quite well. The very nature of the relationship between Mia and Sebastian reflects this dualism: Two little dreamers who at any time can suddenly get swept up into romantic musical moments, who will always love each other, but end up taking divergent life paths, who achieve what they want — successful actress, wife, and mother, successful musician and club owner — yet in the end do not totally realize what they need.
They are living the dream. Because it’s L.A., that dream is conflict, complicated, and very exciting. Because it’s Hollywood, they achieve what they ‘worship’… but the bittersweet nature of the ending, for me, is not so much about Mia and Sebastian not ending up together, but rather in their success, have they somehow missed what is of true value?
Those themes are right there expressed in dialogue.
How about you: What dialogue speaks to you in La La Land?