BY P. CLAIRE DODSON
So I saw La La Land this week, and besides being a very good film, its score is a perfectly sad homage to following your dreams -- a.k.a it’s a Melancholic Mondays post waiting to happen. *POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*
The film follows Ryan Gosling’s Sebastien and Emma Stone’s Mia as they navigate their early careers in Los Angeles and reckon with all the cynicism of adulthood, all the while waiting for the thing they think is going to make them happy.
I can’t get its thesis track “City of Stars” out of my head, so that seems like a good place to plant my thoughts this week. There are multiple versions of the song in the film, each with slightly different lyrics. But I’ll talk about the version that comes up first in the film, where Gosling walks down a boardwalk, looking pensive and examining a new direction his life has taken.
City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see
Is this the start of something wonderful and new?
Or one more dream,
That I cannot make true.
The melancholy of the frankness of that question gets to me. Is this thing going to be great? Or am I going to be disappointed again? It’s a testing of the waters, a self-aware question we hope will ward off the bad, like the myth of how if you think about airplane crashes when you’re flying, your plane won’t plummet. When we think about that question, it doesn’t do what we want it to do. But what it does do is remind us that there are so many opportunities to make changes for ourselves, to take risks and play the odds and see what the hell happens.
The lyrics perfectly captures those first feelings of falling in love, whether with a job or a place or a person. It’s the moment where you look back and can see roads diverging in your life, uncertain, leading somewhere nice or not so nice -- somewhere you might not be able to come back from. Somewhere that’s worth going anyway.
P. Claire Dodson has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Vice, Fast Company, and more. She is a music editor for @LunaLunaMag. Follow her on Twitter at @Claire_ifying.