OK, so I watched La La Land.
“Why are your hands shaking?” — my friend J, in the car, 15 minutes after.
I did not expect much, and for about half of it I thought it was just a usual cheesy little romantic movie except with music. I watched the LA landscapes with a feeling of “been there, it looks exactly like that, how boring, how not even pretty”. I watched the party scenes with a feeling of “how superficial and over-the-top”. I watched all the cliches — failed auditions, interrupted kisses, good-looking assholes, one character spilling coffee on another, empty conversations — with a cynical feeling of “really, movie, all this bullshit is how you’re gonna get to my heart?”.
And then I found myself sitting in the same seat but feeling. I almost felt fooled: how did this happen?
It’s existential as fuck.
All these boring LA-scapes? That’s the whole point. They’re exactly as boring for the main characters. The movie doesn’t make them prettier or uglier — it shows them as they are: oversold but ultimately empty shells; unglorified shabby streets with garbage cans; neat tidy urban roads with identical houses and views of a gas station; views of mountains that are of course still mountains, but are kinda grayish and not really breathtaking in any way. It all almost mocks you: did you expect this to be colorful and glorious? Well joke’s on you: it’s kinda like what you expected, except it’s not that colorful and not glorious. Like someone forgot to add an instagram filter.
All these everyday events. Looking for your car at a parking lot. Casual conversations with friends in a businesslike California tone about how who bought what and went where. Like taken out of your own life and holding a mirror to your face: see, here? this is empty. this is you. you’re empty.
All the slightly over-the-top cliches. A lot of things are are painted with these broad strokes, almost schematic: an interrupted kiss or an overly noisy party or annoying roommates or obscene music by sold-out musicians — all these look in the movie the way a human stick figure would look in an abstract painting; it’s not content per se and it’s not detailed, it’s just a recognizable symbol; it’s up to you to fill it with what’s inside you. And if you have nothing inside to fill it with, then you’ll experience only the void.
And the scene when they fly through the stars. It’s ridiculous and it’s happy; you know it can’t be real and they know damn well it can’t be real, but it’s there and in-your-face; it tells you “this is your chance to feel happy for a little bit! now it’s allowed to not play by the rules of the real world! let it go!”; and you grasp at this chance and you bask in it while it lasts, together with them. You feel like a child that doesn’t yet know that miracles don’t happen.
And the ending. In a way it’s similar to this stars scene, you know it’s not real, except this time it’s no longer in an even slightly happy context. It’s morbid and painful. It shows you imaginary happiness, and you’re torn about allowing yourself to feel through it, because you know it’s only going to hurt you more if you do. It goes on and goes on, and shows more and more happiness, and it’s over-the-top long, and you want to scream: please stop! I know this is not real, this is a cruel prank, enough already! and you are like somebody drowning in an uneasy sea, it throws you into the air and then it takes you back underwater, for moments you feel happy and for other moments you are awake.
I honestly didn’t even like the music in the movie that much, nor the plot, nor I dunno anything in particular — same way as when you look at Picasso, the details aren’t aesthetic.
I’m sure everything I felt tells as much about myself and my state as it does about the movie. But when something makes me feel so much, I am deeply grateful.