La La Land is a 2016 film about the shared journey of Mia, an actress desperately working to make it big in Hollywood, and Sebastian, who wishes to own a Jazz bar where he can play the music he wants to. The film delves into the relationship of the two and how they help each other achieve their separate goals.
When the plot is stripped down to the simple Hollywood romance of two people trying to make it big, it has cliché written all over it.
But I am not criticizing the movie for this aspect in any way, because they take this more ‘frequent’ plot and enhance it: vibrant colors, entrancing music sequences and a prime detail that many deem as its sour spot.
Mia and Sebastian do not end up together at the end of the movie.
A universal experience I have had when speaking to most people regarding La La Land is that ‘everything was great, except the ending. Mia and Sebastian should have ended up together.’
Which is a valid point!
The movie takes us through their beginning cold shoulder run, then a flirty back and forth, until it develops into them blossoming the deepest of sincerity for each other.
The best aspect of their relationship is how much they care for each other; the movie makes it very apparent that Sebastian wants Mia to be the big-time actress he already sees her as, and how Mia wants nothing but Sebastian to have the creative freedom to show the world his piano playing skills.
The two were there for each other in some of the most important, hard-working years of their lives. They push each other to achieve their goals, even when the other loses sight: that is true love.
With all of this, of course, the audience is rooting for them.
But, in the closing sequence of the movie, it is confirmed that they did not end up together, and Mia has a husband of her own.
I will admit, this crushed me. After the vibrant story of these two, you want them to have the best of both worlds: become successful and end up with each other. Instead, the movie gives us a real-world ending, where things are not how we expected them to turn out to be.
A key detail that perfectly highlights why they do not end up together is during the end sequence. Mia is letting her mind wander along the trail of what a future with Sebastian would have been like if they would not have parted ways earlier. We transition to Mia imagining him in her current life, in the shoes of her husband. In her head, they made it work and found their way back to each other. They now go through life, hand in hand.
So while they are happily together, as they walk into what is supposed to be “Seb’s” (AKA: Sebastian’s Jazz club), the camera zooms in as the couple walks past an empty sign. In this universe, where the two end up together, it is just a regular bar because Sebastian had to give up his dream to be with her.
Another detail to highlight here is in Mia’s fantasy with Sebastian, she is still at the same career level: a successful and well-known actress.
This exhibits the core reason as to why the two could not make it together: you cannot get everything you want.
In a perfect world, like the one Mia is imagining, Sebastian follows her as she pursues her growing career. The film’s end acknowledged the rosy glow of the two imagining a life together, filmed on home video, as they live happily ever after. And while Sebastian would still have become a successful piano player, the movie displays through the empty sign that neither of them could have achieved the prime dreams they wanted if they went back to each other.
And it is unfortunate because the two want each other to succeed, but their goals take them on two different paths, paths where they would not live out their career dreams.
Although, just because Mia and Sebastian do not end up together does not mean it is the end of their world. The ending of La La Land is hopeful, in a sense.
It is telling the audience that we may not end up marrying the person we will always love or that the future we so enviously envision for ourselves could end up different. But that doesn’t mean, in essence, it will be bad but just a change.
Mia and Sebastian are still very successful people and still have the memories of them together to play on repeat when looking back on life; sometimes, certain memories are only as good when you can accentuate them in your head.
The two not ending up together is an unfortunate but accurate ending and a principal aspect of how La La Land stands out.