Are you familiar with the “La La Land” Wars? If you were anywhere where people spoke about movies in 2016-2017, chances are you saw or participated in at least one dispute about Damien Chazelle’s throwback musical. Looking back, it’s almost unbelievable that such a sincere, sweet-natured, essentially delightful film could elicit such a level of passionate debate online and offline, but it did.

Now that the dust of the awards season has settled, it’s easier to assess “La La Land” for both its merits and flaws. It’s also simpler to pinpoint what made it such a controversial topic at the time of its debut. Basically, “La La Land” was contentious because it was contradictory: despite its candy-colored nostalgia trip through Hollywood’s Golden Age musicals, it was, at the bottom, a bittersweet, mournful lament for the impassable distances between dreams and reality.

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Consider this: The montage that finishes “La La Land” is a case study of how to take an audience off its feet while quietly putting them down to the shakier ground than before. It’s the pinnacle of the film’s endorphin-rush engineering, but it’s also the ideal synthesis of all of the film’s difficult-to-swallow ideas. Here’s why.

La La Land doesn’t care if Mia and Seb “make it.”

The true climax of “La La Land” occurs when Mia (Emma Stone) walks in for her last-ditch audition months after giving up on her ambition of becoming a star and returning home to Boulder City. She sings “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” the film’s most heartbreaking song, and then the scene transitions to a casual, uneasy discussion between Mia and Seb (Ryan Gosling), both venting their fears about what’s going to happen next.

La La Land - ENDING!

We should then depict the procedure that follows Mia’s knockout audition, according to conventional storytelling advice. This is where “La La Land” distinguishes itself from other Hollywood stories by omitting the entire procedure. Instead, it moves ahead to Mia and Seb’s glory days, as if to minimize their significance. Up to this point, we believe the film’s major question is “Will they Make It?” But Damien Chazelle simply shrugs when asked about it: “Yes, they will. However, that isn’t the purpose.”

Chazelle’s major purpose, like in “Whiplash” and “First Man,” is to have us think critically about what’s beneath the story’s driving goals. The news that Mia is now a famous actress and Seb has launched his jazz club brings no joy; rather, it stings because they are no longer together. No, beneath the glamour, the film is truly asking: “What motivates them to make it? What exactly are Hollywood fantasies comprised of?” And, as the concluding montage implies, the answer is not simple.

The last montage delves into the artists’ platonic passion for entertainment.

So Mia Dolan is now a well-known actress with a loving husband and son, while Seb Wilder owns a swanky jazz club. Mia and her family end up at Seb’s by happenstance, and Seb, unable to tell her what he wants, simply plays their theme on the piano.

It’s no coincidence that the final what-might-have-been montage is set to music from their first memories. Mia and Seb’s idea of a perfect life together begins with the simple excitement of falling in love, only to erupt into imagination, as with all types of artistic drive.

La La Land - ENDING!

Because those yearnings are one and the same, the initial promise of their relationship is intertwined with their youthful love for movies and music: Hollywood, with its appeal to humans’ aesthetic sensibility, convinces people all over the world that a life in show business will be a life spent forever in the elation of their most cherished art. It’s a lot like dating your crush, and the reality can be just as painful.

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