Is La La Land's Ending Happy Or Sad?

La La Land Emma Stone Ryan Gosling

Warning: spoilers for La La Land are in play. If you haven't seen the film, and want to go in fresh, bookmark this story and come back once you've caught up.

With its awards circuit victories ensuring its place in pop culture, La La Land is the film that's been on everyone's lips. For the most part, it's been due to the endearing quality of Damien Chazelle's film; while others have been discussing the fact that the film is one of the best movie musicals in some time. But what's got us still talking in the offices of CinemaBlend is the film's ending.

More specifically, the tone of said ending, as it can be interpreted in a couple of different manners. For the most part, people are divided into two separate camps: those who are dead set against it being a happy ending, and those who feel that the film's finale is a smile-worthy affair. So far be it from us to stay out of a good debate, as we're ready to discuss both viewpoints, and a third that could hold the key to the debate's crushing end!

The Ending

By time we get to the end of La La Land, Mia has taken an acting job in France and Sebastian is starting to get his own jazz club off the ground. Admitting they'll always love each other, we jump ahead five years to see the future of this lovely couple, who have already been going through some rough times after a particularly upsetting dinner argument, among other incidents. We find out that Mia is not only a successful actress as she'd always dreamed, but she's also married and has a daughter with said husband. Doing pretty well for themselves and going out for a date night, the couple stop into a particularly interesting night spot: Sebastian's club.

Upon seeing Mia in the audiemce, Sebastian plays the theme that's represented the couple throughout the whole film, fantasizing what their lives would have been like if he'd done everything right. In his dream, he doesn't push past Mia upon their first meeting, makes it to her one woman show, and is the perfect, supportive man she deserves. They get married, have their own child, and end up going to that same jazz club- in a mirror universe version of what could have been.

As Sebastian plays the last, sad notes of the theme, Mia and her husband leave. With her husband out the door, she looks back one last time to see Sebastian, and looks with on mournfully. Catching her eye, Sebastian smiles wistfully in understanding, and Mia reciprocates. She leaves, and he continues to entertain his patrons, as we're told in a plain as day title card, "The End."

La La Land Emma Stone

It's Sad

If you're looking for La La Land's easiest interpretation of the ending, you could say that it's sad as all get out. We spend an entire film rooting for Mia and Sebastian to make their dreams come true and wind up together, and every song brings us closer to the heartbreak that is the ending of this film. Plus, that smile on Ryan Gosling's face in the finale is the stuff that sad endings are made of. Sure, Seb wasn't exactly the best person in the world, but surely these two professionals could have made it? He had a stationary club, and she could have travelled around the world, going from gig to gig and always coming home. There's just not enough information to even remotely understand why these two didn't work, so by default this interpretation lands on a sad ending.

La La Land Emma Stone Ryan Gosling

It's Happy

Digging a little deeper into the ending of Damien Chazelle's record breaking hit, we can see an ending that is totally happy -- once you remove love from the equation. Looking back at the major themes of this film, the big drive for both Mia and Sebastian is to follow their dreams and make the big time. Even "Another Day Of Sun" sets up this tone in its lyrics, with tales of leaving home to strike it big, leaving that person you always loved seeing you up on that big screen. Since La La Land's pair of lovers both wind up making their way to their respective dreams, the mission is accomplished. Sure, there was a failed romance that kinda/sorta propelled them to where they are now, but that's the price they paid to get to the big leagues. They worked hard, it paid off, and now they're free to ply their trade.

La La Land Ryan Gosling

It's Bittersweet

To be completely honest with you, our dear readers, La La Land isn't really a happy or sad ending; at least it isn't by our standards. Rather, we subscribe to the viewpoint that this film's ending is as bittersweet as the dark chocolate bar you bought at the concession stands prior to showtime. Sure, Mia and Sebastian made their dreams come true; but what did they lose in the process? They lost a love that could have been everything, though with Sebastian being kind of a jerk and Mia needing to make some sacrifices for her career, we're not completely sold that their romance was a sure thing to begin with. It's great to see the two of them grabbing onto their individual beams of starlight, but it's still sad that it wasn't together.

What's your take on the La La Land finale? Let us know in the Comments below, though if you want to see the film again / a first time before debating, you can check it out at your local theater today!

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.