Damien, the youngest Oscar winning director in Academy history, sparked a wave of controversy and mixed emotions with ending of LALA Land:
Should Seb and Mia have stayed together? Why didn’t they stay together? Why did the film end on an acutely somber note after such a fantastic uplifting experience?
I asked Damien why he made the choice to deliver a very sobering, grown up ending to this stunning uplifting musical experience.
Damien, who is extremely thoughtful and a serious film historian, said quite convincingly that for him the film ends with the scene on the bench where Seb and Mia first danced just after Mia’s amazing audition [best song in the film].
Mia asks “where are we?” Seb, who has redeemed himself by fetching Mia from Nevada and making her do the audition, knows great things are in store for Mia, but not for them as a couple.
There is a finality to this scene — that their relationship is either over or on hold. The view that was so magical at sunset when they first danced is now ugly and garish in the daylight. The scene ends and we cut to “Five Years Later”.
Surprisingly, Damien described everything after the bench scene as a “musical mood piece”.
As the audience, I needed more. Had the film ended at the bench scene, I would have thrown popcorn and worse at the screen. The “mood piece” as Damien referred to it, the “happily ever after almost moments”, are Damien’s brilliant gift to the audience — to give us that emotional satisfaction of seeing Seb and Mia together, which is what the film has promised to deliver and we, the audience, have been wanting to happen. Without this fantasy “what if” ride, and just seeing Mia married to someone else with a baby and seeing Seb at his club, would have been extremely unsatisfying. A genuine downer.
As you will see in the interview, Damien wanted a mature ending for Mia and Seb. Damien brought reality back into his musical dream by sticking to his convictions that sometimes things don’t work out the way they do in the movies. Sometimes we don’t get what we want even when we get what we need.
I applaud this brilliant young writer/director for staying true to his characters and giving his audience the cake, and the icing, and the heartburn with this very grownup, satisfying ending.