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What I love about 'La La Land,' and how I'm living an alternate ending

Posted January 20

The first word out of my mouth after I saw the film "La La Land" was a very loud “No!” (Note: There are spoilers in this column.)

I sat on the edge of my chair with a huge tub of buttered popcorn and an empty container of frozen Junior Mints on my lap and just stared at the screen while people laughed and exited around me.

“No!” I said again, looking at my husband and sister. “What in the world? Why did it end that way?"

Slowly we got up and walked out of the theater, with me still complaining about the unfairness of it all.

"La La Land" has drawn mixed emotions all around, but not because it wasn’t a good movie — it’s because of how great it was that makes the ending so frustrating to figure out.

I sat on the couch later that night discussing it with my husband, Brad.

“Why do you think they didn’t end up together?” I asked.

Brad answered, “I don’t know. Maybe they were trying to show that you can’t have everything. That sometimes you have to sacrifice for the career you want … or for the love you want.”

In the movie, a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress who have helped each other pursue and achieve their dreams ultimately go their separate ways. You see the main character, Mia (Emma Stone), going home five years later to her husband and baby girl, who you assume is with Ryan Goslin’s character, Sebastian. But it isn’t.

Then in a beautiful musical sequence which shows Mia stumbling upon Sebastian’s Jazz Club and sees him playing “their song” on the piano again, the movie takes the viewers back in time, to an alternate ending in which Mia and Sebastian ultimately do end up together. It highlights the ways in which they could have done things differently to have that fairy-tale ending.

“According to the template, its closing number should be a happily ever after resolution, not an acceptance of the couples' diverging paths,” says writer Hunter Harris for Vulture. “But that just underscores that, dance steps aside, 'La La Land' ultimately is not about Mia and Sebastian’s romance. The real romance was with the shimmer of dreams.”

Then it was Brad's turn to ask me a quesiton.

“Am I your Ryan Gosling?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’m not sure that you have ever pushed me as much as Gosling’s character pushed Mia to achieve her dreams. Is that what you mean?”

“I mean we’re living the alternate ending life," he said. "You had a career that I wanted to support you in, but I also wanted to marry you. Think about it: we’re living the life everyone in that theater wished Mia and Sebastian would have lived.”

That really got me thinking. If Brad would have held off on proposing, and I would have moved to Nashville or pursued a music career, would we have ended up together? Would I have had that dream career I always set out to have? And is that what I would have really wanted, in the end?

What I love about "La La Land" is that it touched on so many emotions I have gone through in my own life and career. I don’t love that it has some profanity. But it does a very good job at portraying the struggle so many go through in trying to achieve their dreams. And what many people give up in making that dream a reality or giving up that dream for something else.

For me, that something else is Brad. And now it’s also my sons: Boston, Beckham, Briggs and Benson.

And boy, are they something else.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is carmen.r.herbert@gmail.com.

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