La La Land and the Last Smile

So much had already been said and written about Lala Land that I couldn’t find anything new to add to the conversation, although I saw the movie pretty early on. While I didn’t warm up to the movie for the first few minutes, I started liking it as it progressed.

There are so many opinions about the ending that I don’t know what to think about it anymore; what I have done is listened to the music a thousand times and somehow attached it to my life. I felt cheated obviously when the happy ending that was promised wasn’t delivered, but for me, that is where lies the genius of the movie. It makes you think of what if, but also impresses upon you that how you lead your life at the moment is mostly a series of chance encounters. If you hadn’t taken that one wrong turn that particular day, if you hadn’t decided to take this seat instead of that, you might have never met certain people and life would have been so different.

It’s become one of my favorite topics now, discussing Lala Land with people, for there was nothing so remarkable about the movie, yet somehow somewhere it makes an impression. When I met a friend in Bologna then, I asked him what he felt, and he said it all depends on the last smile. On how you take the last smile more precisely.

Emma Stone walks into the jazz bar with her husband, who’s not Ryan Gosling. She then sees Ryan Gosling playing the piano and we are shown a whole sequence of how she married Ryan Gosling and made a life with him, only to be shown at the end of the sequence how that was actually just a what-if sequence. She gets up to leave with her new husband, lets him lead, and then hangs back for a few seconds and looks back at Ryan Gosling. They exchange a look, and then both of them smile, give in the tiniest of nods and move on. Perhaps it’s also significant that neither of them smile in a single frame then.

Maybe it is true, that it’s all on how you take the smile: if you take it as a smile of regret on what could not be, of a chance to have lived it with the one you loved, a chance that was given up.  Or a smile of acceptance, an embrace perhaps, that we made our choices, and this is where and who we are now. And maybe it is also a little metaphor for how you take life itself, for there are always things you might have to leave behind, things that could not be, and things that would be so beautiful if they would have been- woulds and ifs and beens.

It is how you take it, everywhere, everyday.

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