*WARNING: Spoiler Alert!*
Over all, a cute movie! It was original and had a fun classic movie era flavour to it. There were no graphic scenes against the 6th & 9th, which was impressive and appreciated in such a modern film. The musical numbers were fun, tapping was light, and costumes were colourful.
Ryan Gosling was, of course, endearing and attractive as Sebastian, the down-and-under jazz pianist. I quite liked his character, actually. At the beginning we’re introduced further to his character in his still-packed-in-boxes apartment. His sister is ragging on him to unpack and grow up but he says he’ll unpack when he has his own jazz place. That’s his dream – to own his own jazz club. He is strong willed and holding onto his dream.
Emma Stone was also good, as usual. Though I liked her character somewhat less then Ryan Gosling’s. Mia is an aspiring actress working as a barista, while she does audition after audition hoping for her big break.
Sebastian and Mia chance meet a few times and the sparks fly. On the third time they finally chat, do a cute dance number, and after he seeks her out at her coffee shop the next day, they end up on a lovely next few months – both working towards their respective dreams, and falling more in love with one another.
I really liked that they are each the reason the other person achieves their goal. Sebastian encourages Mia to write her play and shoot for her dreams, despite all the failed auditions. He nigh-on forces her to go to an audition that comes about because of that same failed play, which ends up being her big break. Mia encourages Sebastian to take a pianist job with a band he doesn’t like, and isn’t passionate about their music, because it is a steady income and he can eventually open his own establishment with that income. Both characters would have missed their shot, if not for the other character.
I really did like the movie, until we got to the end.
After Mia gets her big break, she has to go to Paris to film. She asks Sebastian where they are at, what will happen? He says she needs to chase her dream, and they’ll see what happens as they both continue life. There’s unspoken love connection going on in this scene, and it’s really sweet. Mia tells him that she “thinks she will always love him”, and Sebastian responds in kind. It’s sweet, but sad, and I sensed the foreshadowing.
Cut to five years later, and Mia is a successful actress, married to some guy, living in a big house, with a little girl. Sebastian owns his own jazz club. Mia and her husband stumble into his club one night, and as Sebastian is introducing the band, they lock eyes. He sits at the piano and plays their “song”, then the whole movie flashes back to the past and goes through the way events would have happened if a few decisions had been made differently. Sebastian doesn’t take the job with the band and go on tour, Mia takes the acting job and they both go to Paris, then they are married and have a little boy and they stumble into the same jazz club except that Sebastian doesn’t own it. When it comes full circle and back to real life, Sebastian and Mia lock eyes again, they smile at each other, and each go their own way.
Interesting ending to such a movie. We were all expecting a sweet fairytale romance ending, but nope. I pondered this ending on my drive home, and have a few ways of reading it.
My immediate reaction was to dislike it, because it was too real for the movie. The entire movie was flirty, fun, and full of dreams. Why end it on such a hard, real note? I also didn’t like how Mia seemingly got all she wanted – fame, money, husband, family, etc. While Sebastian did get his jazz club, but no love. He was still in love with her, and she with him, but she also had another love to fill the void. His was a heart that felt deeper, that was part of his character through the movie. His passion as he played was inspiring, and he would get worked up over situations and conversations that meant something to him. He was full of life and passion. She was ready to quit her dream because she was tired of being let-down. She wasn’t willing to persevere until he coaxed her to it. For him to end on a low-note in love was sad. Especially since he had to watch his love walk away holding the hand of another man. The reality of the situation was a bit too much after such a fairytale-esque story.
On the other side of the coin, she seems to have all she wants, but does she? She gave up true love for her dream. She has everything else she wanted, but was it worth it? Sebastian could have become her new dream. (Side note: That’s another thing that bothers me – in movies it always seems to be the man who has to give up his dream for the girl. In the flashback “what if” sequence, it’s Sebastian who gives up his dream, in the end Mia is still famous and rich, while he doesn’t have his jazz club. Heaven forbid a “strong independent woman” should let go of her dream and find a new one with the man she loves.) But she didn’t let herself love him enough to make him her new dream. She held on to the actress dream of riches and fame.
Sebastian also encouraged Mia to write her plays, because he saw that’s what she was truly passionate about. Her play writing ends up leading to her “big break”, but it’s like she doesn’t allow her true passion to unfold because she’s caught up in acting instead of writing – she’s caught up in what she thinks should be her passion, instead of what truly is her passion. If that’s the case, then a poetic ending for her. She’s now stuck in a life of what she thinks should be hear dream, instead of what really was her dream – Sebastian. And he, having followed his dream, is now happy in a life of his dream, save one thing – Mia. And now they both suffer the consequences of her blindness, selfishness and stupidity.
It was sad to see Sebastian alone at the end. He loved this girl so much, still does (which is apparent when we see he’s named his club after her suggestion instead of the name he was so stuck on in an earlier scene of the movie). He did everything he could to help her, did for himself what he thought she wanted him to do. Then she up and leaves the country, leaves him, leaves love. Only to see her again in the arms of another man, while he still loves her. Wait, is this a dig into “nice guys finish last” ? Maybe. But it’s crap. If he was truly with the right girl, they wouldn’t have lost touch when she left, and they’d be together instead of having a room between them. Same with this “nice guys finish last” crap – guys, if you’re with the right girl, you won’t finish last.
The “what if” sequence at the end was interesting because it showed how one or two decisions affected the entire outcome of the characters lives. Had they made one or two different choices, their lives would have been very different, still including one another and the love they shared. I guess life can be like that – the decisions we make do affect the way our lives turn out. There are consequences to our actions, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. At least we don’t have real musical numbers running across the television screen when we’re in la la land, letting us know exactly how life would have turned out if…
Or maybe both characters really are happy in the end. Sometimes people come into our lives just as a stepping stone. Perhaps they weren’t meant to stay there, only help you achieve something that needed achieving, learn a lesson you needed to learn, or perhaps instead they needed you in their lives at that time.
When the music has died and the lights are out, maybe a smile across the room is the best you can share now, having gone through what was needed to go through, accepting that you chose another path, or that your paths were always meant to fork away eventually.