An Analysis of “La La Land’s” Ending

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers regarding the film “La La Land.”

Ever since I began writing the Artist of the Week, I’ve found myself asking my friends for a script of questions whenever we sit down for dinner. ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ always creeps into the discussion and, strangely enough, it’s a question I personally don’t have an answer to. However, growing up, I definitely had one movie I hated: “La La Land.”

For anyone who hasn’t seen “La La Land,” it follows the story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a jazz pianist trying to make it in Los Angeles. They fall in love because of their distinct passions, and their eventual success rips them apart. Mia becomes an accomplished actress, while Sebastian finally creates his jazz club called Seb’s — the name Mia proposes to him before their split.

My disdain for “La La Land” mirrors mine of romance as a genre. I never understood why Disney princesses needed a prince or why my Barbies had a matching Ken doll. I played tenor saxophone in my jazz band for years, and I can promise you that Ryan Gosling was never clinking down on keys and stealing my heart during rehearsals.  

But there was one moment that stuck in my mind, no matter how hard I tried to dismiss it. In the ending scene, Mia and her husband search for a place to eat. Serendipitously, they end up at Seb’s, and the two have a final moment together, reminiscing on what could’ve been. The club fades to black while Mia and Sebastian transport to the first place they met. Every scene repeats itself, but this time their relationship goes perfectly. Mia’s acting career is immensely successful, with Sebastian supporting her at every turn. They fly to Paris, where he becomes an accredited jazz pianist, and watch a film documenting them creating a life together. Mia’s current life is reimagined with Sebastian as they drive together to his club. When they walk into Seb’s and kiss, Sebastian hits the final key of their theme, ending the fantasy. The ending depicts their romance stereotypically: they fall in love on a Broadway set, with cut-out shrubbery and dancing extras. When Mia’s husband asks her if they should stay for another piece, she replies that they should go. 

So, why am I attached to this scene? There is tragedy in the fact that Mia can simply leave. She has a successful, fulfilled life without Sebastian. But he’s still unable to let go. He constantly reminds himself of their relationship every time he enters his club. Seb’s was their joint creation. He pines after what could’ve been while Mia turns the other cheek and walks out of the club. For a film so overtly flashy, the ending is a sobering reminder of reality. Sometimes love is not enough to sustain a relationship: long-term commitment often depends on timing, success, and maturity. Even I noticed, as a twelve-year-old, the genre shift. By most romance-movie cliches, the leads are supposed to end up together. Sure, they might drift apart, but they end up in sync. However, “La La Land” proposes an interesting dilemma of whether or not Mia and Sebastian’s love could sustain success. Moreover, the main couple must separate to achieve their respective dreams, which brings closure to their professional achievements. 

I think I despised “La La Land” because I misunderstood it. It’s not a romance movie as much as a commentary on how success can distort romantic relationships. So while I might not have a favorite movie, my favorite ending is “La La Land’s.” Simply put, sometimes you need to let people you love go to find success in what you seek. And if they support you, they should follow you in your pursuit.

1 Comment

  1. Are you aware of the rather similar ending in Umbrellas of Cherbourg? That is a classic French movie from the 1960s. Also a musical, it shares a lot with La La Land, especially the bittersweet concluding scene that you can’t look away from. I highly recommend it.

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