Very few directors know how to end a movie quite like Damien Chazelle. Think about his tense, conflicting jazz-drummer drama, Whiplash. The back-and-forth between Miles Teller's student and JK Simmons' teacher built seamlessly to a live confrontation that ultimately awoke the true genius in Teller's performer... just as Simmons had been predicting over the course of the entire movie. Chazelle's latest film, La La Land, has an equally perfect and ridiculously satisfying ending, so when I say down with the filmmaker to talk about his process, I had to ask him how he comes up ,with his conclusions, because sticking the landing is a LOT harder to do in a movie than audience members may realize. (Right, Passengers?)
Needless to say, there will be spoilers for La La Land from here on out, so you might want to stop reading now if you haven't yet seen the film. And GO see the film!
The final act of Damien Chazelle's La La Land takes place five years after the main action of the mesmerizing musical. Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress, has finally found success -- though her path took her away from Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), the man she was courting during her rough patch. When we catch up with Mia, she's married to a new man, and while the couple is on the town, they stumble into a jazz club. Sebastian's jazz club, to be specific. The two haven't seen each other in five years. Their eyes meet, and as Sebastian plays the piano, we are treated to a heart-wrenching and uplifting montage of the life he and Mia might have lived, if life played out differently.
It's such a perfectly crafted finale, I had to ask Damien Chazelle if he came up with the ending to La La Land first, and then backfilled his story to make sure that he built to it properly. And he explained to me:
You can tell that the conclusions of Damien Chazelle's films are so beautifully constructed and meticulously crafted, a ton of forethought has to go into their plotting and planning, because especially with La La Land, the montage has so many brilliant callbacks to the entirety of the film. We essentially are watching a new cut of the same actions, only with tweaks that would reflect different decisions in Mia and Sebastian's lives. It's melodramatic and sad, even though -- like their director -- they both get to where they are supposed to be going.
La La Land is in theaters as we speak, and will be expanding to more locations in the coming weeks. It is a MUST see.
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