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Film / La La Land

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"City of Stars, are you shining just for me?"

Is this the start of something wonderful and new?
Or one more dream I cannot make true?
— "City of Stars"

La La Land is a 2016 American romantic musical dramedy film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J. K. Simmons, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt, with music by Justin Hurwitz and Pasek And Paul.

The story follows two young people trying to make it in Los Angeles, the city of stars known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts — Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Gosling), an aspiring jazz musician. They fall in love after a series of chance meetings, and try to make it despite their dreams growing at odds with reality — and eventually, each other.

La La Land premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2016, and was released on December 9, 2016. The film won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Picture, and won in every category it was nominated at the Golden Globe Awards, taking home a record-breaking seven awards. It also earned 14 Academy Award nominations (which is another record, tying the film with Titanic and All About Eve) and won six, including Best Actress for Emma Stone and Best Director for Damien Chazelle.

La La Land provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: The film is clearly trying to tell struggling actors, and on a wider scale struggling dreamers in general, that they're unlikely to find success if they just wait for the right audition to come to them. Mia takes initiative and puts on a show of her own that does get the attention of one casting director, which is all she needs to get her big break.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted. Though drawing inspiration from a variety of classic movie-musicals, the music and story of La La Land are both completely original.
  • Amicable Exes: After the five-year time skip, the only interaction we see between Sebastian and Mia is a smile akin to that of a salute, implying they're still on good terms despite no longer communicating.
  • Anti-Love Song: "A Lovely Night" is basically a Belligerent Sexual Tension song with lyrics about how said night is wasted on two people who have no feelings for each other.
  • Author Appeal: Sebastian's zealous love of jazz doubtlessly comes from Damien Chazelle's own background as a jazz musician.
  • Award-Bait Song: "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", both of which were nominated for Oscars (the former winning both the Oscar and the Golden Globe).
  • Babies Ever After: Mia has a child after the time skip, but it's with David, not Sebastian. A child with Sebastian is also a part of her Fantasy Sequence.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: After the failed opening night of "So Long, Boulder City", Mia overhears people in the corridor picking her work to pieces.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mia and Sebastian's relationship starts out this way. They first meet when she flips him off in traffic, and they continue sparring through "A Lovely Night," which is all about how there's absolutely no chemistry between them.
  • Big Honking Traffic Jam: Opens with everyone stuck in LA traffic and honking their horns. It's done subtly since there's an upbeat Crowd Song to follow. However, after the song is over, everyone gets into their cars and goes right back to honking at each other.
  • Big "NO!": Seb shouts a big one past midnight in a sleepy Nevada town after having already agitated a neighbor by blaring his car horn searching for Mia.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Sebastian's response to Mia refusing to answer the request of the casting director that attended her one-woman play, because she says any further disappointment would break her. He immediately lays into that line of thinking.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mia and Sebastian end up independently successful, but Mia marries David and has a daughter with him. She imagines what could have been if she and Sebastian had ended up together, but she ultimately leaves with her husband, but not before appreciating the name of the club (which she suggested) and the club logo that she designed. Sebastian sees Mia in the crowd, and the two share a knowing smile before they part ways.
  • Bookends:
    • Early in the film, an unnamed celebrity visits the coffee shop where Mia works and pays for a drink despite being offered a freebie by the starry-eyed staff. Near the end, the scene repeats with Mia herself being the celebrity.
    • The film begins with Mia going for an audition and running into a bored and disaffected casting director who barely treats her as more than a prop while she tries to give a rehearsed, emotional speech. The climactic moment of the film has Mia perform another audition for a casting director who is much more attentive and lets her improvise her own monologue, which is emotional for its own reasons.
    • The first and last time Sebastian and Mia meet in a club. The former occurs when both of them are at a low point, and he gives her the brushoff after she becomes amazed after hearing his music while walking past the restaurant. The latter occurs when both have become successful (though following their own paths), but this time they give each other a knowing nod that reflects their journey.
  • Boy Meets Girl:
    • Subverted in the scene when Mia approaches Sebastian in the restaurant with the intent to strike up a conversation. We are led to believe that this will be their moment, but Sebastian walks past her and leaves because he just got fired.
    • In Mia's closing Fantasy Sequence, the outcome of this scene is changed to a straight use of the trope, as it now culminates in a romantic Orbital Kiss between the two.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Sebastian blaring the car horn for several seconds to annoy Mia. It's first seen at the very beginning of the film when Sebastian honks angrily at Mia in traffic, and later becomes a form of endearment whenever he drives to her apartment and announces his presence. Later on, after Mia takes off back to Boulder City, he uses the same trick to locate her house, much to the annoyance of the neighbors.
    • Early in the movie, Sebastian chastises his sister for sitting on a prized wooden stool that belonged to a famous jazz musician. At the end of the film, the stool is displayed prominently in Sebastian's own jazz bar and is basically the first thing anyone sees when they enter the room. It's even on a pedestal putting it at roughly chest height. No one is ever sitting on it again.
    • During the Fantasy Sequence, Sebastian is seen playing at the famous Parisian jazz club "Caveau de la Huchette", whose name coincidentally sounds like a French version of his idea of "Chicken on a Stick".
  • Call-and-Response Song: "A Lovely Night" is essentially a musical battle of the tongues between the two leads.
    Mia: You say there's nothing here? / Well, let's make something clear / I think I'll be the one to make that call.
    Sebastian: But you'll call?
    Mia: And though you look so cute / In your polyester suit...
    Sebastian: It's wool.
    Mia: ...You're right, I'd never fall for you at all.
  • Call-Back:
    • A tragic one. Early in the film, Sebastian asks Mia to go on a movie night with him, but when the time comes Mia forgets that she already has a date with her current boyfriend. After hanging Sebastian up for quite a big while, Mia finally excuses herself to meet him at the theater just in time for the movie to begin. Later in the movie, it's Sebastian who has a date with Mia at her solo stage show, but he forgets that he has a photograph session with his band during that time. Unlike last time, Sebastian failed to show up until Mia's show already ended, hurting Mia even further in addition to the overall negative reception of her show.
    • Another one that is also a Meaningful Echo: when Mia first talks about jazz, she says she sees it as "elevator music" that her parents would put on during dinner parties to talk over, and Sebastian protests vehemently. At their dinner date, Sebastian puts jazz on the radio to serve as a background to their conversation. It shows just how much he abandoned his values and his dreams, which incidentally is the origin of their fight that night.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When they stroll through the Warner Brothers backlot, Mia tells Sebastian how her home in Boulder City was across the street from the town library. He later uses that information to find her after she leaves Los Angeles without a forwarding address.
  • Color Motif: Blue is associated with Sebastian and more pensive, melancholy scenes, while yellow is associated with Mia and bold, bright scenes. As their characters mature, the palette gradually becomes soberer and de-saturated.
  • Crowd Song: Opener "Another Day of Sun" begins with everyone stuck in LA traffic leaving their cars for a big song-and-dance number. The final note ends on everyone getting back in their cars and slamming their doors shut, after which they all go right back to honking at each other.
  • Dancing on a Bus: "Another Day of Sun" has several drivers in a traffic jam dancing and/or showing off their talents on top of their cars and trucks.
  • Dark Reprise: A somber instrumental version of "Someone in the Crowd" ("Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know / The one to fin'lly lift you off the ground") plays as Mia returns home following her underperformed one-woman show and breakup with Sebastian. However, it doubles as a subtle Meaningful Echo, as one person in the audience of her play did turn out to be the turning point of her career.
  • Deus ex Machina: The idea of La La Land being a place of changing fortunes where anything can happen is reinforced when after Mia's one-woman show appears to flop, it turns out one of the few attendees was a casting agent so impressed she offers her the opportunity to spend eight months writing and starring in a film in Paris, despite her being a total unknown, propelling her to stardom in a few short years.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Mia and Sebastian don't end up together, though we get a taste of what a happy ending between Mia and Sebastian would have looked like in Mia's closing Fantasy Sequence.
  • Diegetic Switch: A rendition of "Mia & Sebastian's Theme" plays on the radio during Mia's dinner date with her then-boyfriend Greg. As she rushes out of the restaurant to meet Sebastian, the music is picked up by a swelling orchestra.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Greg is a barely-there version, seeing as the film's marketing leaves zero suspense about whom Mia will end up with. When Mia meets Sebastian she's been dating Greg for a short time, and after she runs off in the middle of a date he's never heard from again.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue takes place five years after Mia's last audition.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Has at least three meanings.
    • "La La Land" is a nickname for Los Angeles or "L.A.", where the story takes place.
    • The film is also a musical, so there's a lot of "la la" or singing going on.
    • Lastly, "living in la la land" is an idiom for a person being out of touch with reality.
  • Dramatic Spotlight: At the start of a few songs, the entire scene will fade to black except for the person singing (most noticeable in Mia's last audition).
  • Dream Ballet: The final dance between Mia and Sebastian is done in this style. It's even set in Paris.
  • Dream Melody: City of Stars sort of qualifies as this. Sebastian first performs the song alone out on the boardwalk, then in a duet with Mia, and during the closing credits a humming version is performed by Emma Stone. The song's lyrics serve as a sort of Arc Words, speaking to the theme of dreams and how the setting of LA often simultaneously fosters and destroys those dreams.
  • Duet Bonding: The attraction between Mia and Sebastian gets noticeably stronger during "A Lovely Night" and their apartment duet of "City of Stars".
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: In-universe. In Mia's stage play, the window in the backdrop shows the Eiffel Tower in glowing colors.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)". It's the final song in the movie with lyrics, and the only two numbers that follow it on the soundtrack are "Epilogue" and "The End", both of which are medleys of other songs throughout the movies. And story-wise, it represents the resolution to Mia's career storyline, with only one scene in the movie between it and the epilogue.
  • Failed Audition Plot: Mia fails many auditions. Finally, she decides to write a one-woman show. In the end, she is selected for an audition.
  • Failure Montage: Mia has a series of failed auditions.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Mia and Sebastian get one after the observatory scene as they've become an Official Couple.
  • Fantasy Sequence: Mia has a breathtaking one when she sees Sebastian at his club and imagines the life she could have had with him.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: After their first brief meeting in traffic, Mia and Sebastian run into each other twice more over the next couple of days and weeks. Mia remarks on how strange it is.
    Mia: It's kind of strange that we keep running into each other.
    Sebastian: Maybe it means something.
    Mia: I doubt it.
    Sebastian: Yeah, I don't think so.
  • Flight of Romance: Done metaphorically (maybe) when Mia and Sebastian break into the Griffith Observatory's Planetarium theater and end up dancing in mid-air among thousands of stars.
  • Flipping the Bird: Mia flips the bird on Sebastian during their first encounter on the highway.
  • Foot Popping: In Dream Ballet, Mia does this as she and Sebastian share a kiss, after she passes an audition for a movie filming in Paris.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Opening number "Another Day of Sun" both sets up the characters' motivations and foreshadows the plot of the film. One line in particular could be seen as hinting about the fate of Mia and Sebastian's relationship.
      Cause maybe in that sleepy town
      He'll sit one day, the lights go down
      He'll see my face and think of how he used to know me.
    • Also, the Casablanca window Mia points out to Seb on the Warner Bros. lot. Casablanca is a famous example of Did Not Get the Girl.
  • For Want of a Nail: The ending plays with the concept in a deliberately fantastical way with Sebastian kissing Mia when they meet at the lounge he was fired from before having even spoken as opposed to something that would've feasibly happened to change the story.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The quick glimpse of Mia's e-mail invitation to the "So Long, Boulder City" show reveals that she made a number of errors that all but ensured the recipients wouldn't take it seriously. She doesn't use a BCC, a major no-no with a list of contacts that long. The subject line makes her name the big selling point despite no one in the business knowing who she is, and she offers hardly any information on what the show is actually about, apparently assuming that a bunch of Hollywood people would be glad to take time out of their busy days just on her non-existent name recognition.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Mia works as a barista but can afford to drive a Prius and live in a huge apartment, big enough to host an elaborate musical number with choreography and backup dancers, though it's also shown she lives there with three other women. Sebastian also lives in a decently sized apartment by himself, despite his only occupation for most of the film being playing piano for tips. Los Angeles may be cheaper than New York City, but not by much.
  • Genre Throwback: To old-fashioned Hollywood jazz musicals and Jacques Demy musicals (but with a modern story and setting).
  • Hollywood California: The film wears its location on its sleeve, with several standard Hollywood house parties, several scenes on movie backlots and discussions on movie history, and a plethora of struggling artists trying to make it. The opening number even reflects on the large number of people coming to the city to make it in film. The rest of the movie is one big love letter to Los Angeles, and long-time residents can make a game out of identifying all of the locations in the film.
  • Homage:
    • Damien Chazelle is paying homage to classics in the musical genre.
    • In-universe: Both Mia and Keith feel that this is a major problem with Sebastian's love of jazz music. Mia points out that little to no one would be able to understand what "Chicken on a Stick" is a reference to and would drive away possible patrons if Sebastian gave his future club that name. Keith points out that jazz music, an endangered genre, will never become revivified if it's firmly rooted in tradition.
  • Honking Arriving Car: A recurring motif. At the beginning of the film, Sebastian blares his horn angrily at Mia while stuck in a traffic jam, but as they grow closer to each other, Sebastian sounds his car horn in the same manner whenever he picks Mia up for a date at her apartment. This also comes into play towards the end of the film after Mia returns to Colorado, and Sebastian goes looking for her. When she hears his car horn, she immediately knows that he came all the way from Los Angeles just for her.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: After the Moment Killer at the cinema while watching Rebel Without a Cause, Mia announces that she has an idea. Dissolve to them driving up to Griffith Observatory which they just saw in the movie.
  • Implausible Deniability: In a fit of pretension, Sebastian refers to himself as a "serious musician," something Mia points out is as ridiculous as being called a "serious firefighter." Two seconds after he says it, Sebastian claims he can't remember saying it. He tries to change the subject by pointing out Mia can't judge him from all the way up in her barista job, only for Sebastian's goofy, embarrassing band member to walk up and boss him around. Once the band member leaves, Sebastian tries to deny he just took orders from a fan of A Flock of Seagulls because Sebastian lets him do it.
  • Iris Out:
    • This visual effect is used to close on Mia and Sebastian's Big Damn Kiss at the observatory.
    • The movie ends on a The End title card that fades out via this effect.
  • Irony: Intentionally invoked in the opening number, "Another Day of Sun," which features over a hundred drivers breaking into a song-and-dance routine about their joyful dreams of succeeding in Los Angeles... while stuck in gridlock on the freeway, going nowhere fast. It's doubly ironic because it's 'Another Day of Sun'... in Winter.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Sebastian's boss at the club where he and Mia meet. Not letting him play anything he wants is strict, and it's understandable that Sebastian would be annoyed by this, but firing Sebastian when he refuses to stick to the setlist, after being specifically told to do so, with some indication that this is not the first time this has happened? After he's already rather generously hired Sebastian back after firing him once before for going off the setlist? That sounds entirely fair. Sebastian tacitly admits as such to himself, even if he's angry about it.
    • Though Keith's modern style is seen by Sebastian as an insult to "true jazz", Keith says that culture moves always forward, and it's impossible to make jazz popular again unless you stop being a traditionalist. Also, Keith argues that Sebastian is a Principles Zealot who is shooting himself in the foot, sabotaging his own career over what jazz "should" be. It's such a good point that Sebastian briefly ends up joining Keith's band.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The third time they meet, Sebastian mocks Mia for lacking success beyond becoming a barista, only for his cringey band member to walk up and give him orders. Sebastian tries to deny that he takes orders from him as Mia revels in his embarrassment.
  • Leitmotif: "Mia & Sebastian's Theme", appropriately enough, which returns again and again throughout the film, played in different styles to represent the moods and shifts of their relationship.
  • Let's Duet: "A Lovely Night" and "City of Stars", between Mia and Sebastian.
  • Logo Joke: The Summit Entertainment logo gets an appropriate 1950's-esque redesign.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: A piano version of "Someone in the Crowd" plays when Mia returns home to her parents after declaring her acting career over.
  • Love Triangle: Between Mia, Sebastian, and their aspirations.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Guy: Sebastian has been noted to be a rare genderswapped version of this trope, spending a lot of time making sure that down-on-her-luck Mia feels as safe, supported, and encouraged to follow her ambitions as possible, with his own dreams of opening the jazz club usually secondary to the narrative against Mia's dreams, as the plot follows her story more.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: A female dancer in a yellow dress gets this treatment towards the end of the opening number.
  • Mean Boss: Bill, the boss of Lipton's restaurant, played by J. K. Simmons. Not only does he browbeat Sebastian into playing only trite Christmas songs without any room for improvisation or variety, but he immediately fires Sebastian after the latter lapses into playing a jazz piece he's been working on.
    Bill: You're fired.
    Sebastian: It's Christmas.
    Bill: Yeah, I see the decorations. Good luck in the new year.
  • Meaningful Echo: Towards the beginning of the film, Mia is working in the coffee shop on the Warner Bros lot when an unnamed but obviously famous star enters and orders a coffee. Mia and her co-worker serve her, and say that it's on the house, but she says "Oh no, I insist," and pays for it and leaves; we see her going outside and re-entering her golf cart on her way to whatever set she's working at. At the end of the film, Mia, now a famous star, enters the same coffee shop and orders two coffees. She is offered them on the house, but she says "Oh no, I insist", pays, leaves a tip, and goes out to her own golf cart. The meaningful difference is that one coffee's for her, and the other one's for her driver.
  • Melting-Film Effect: During Mia and Sebastian's first "research" date at the cinemas the film reel of Rebel Without a Cause gets stuck in the projector and melts on the screen. What a Moment Killer.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: "Start a Fire," the concert-opening song played by the jazz band led by Sebastian's longtime friend Keith.
  • Missed the Recital: Sebastian has a photo shoot that prevents him from making it to Mia's one-woman show until after it's over.
  • Modesty Towel: Mia exits the shower with the towel already wrapped around her while nobody else was around.
  • Moment Killer: Used to exaggerated effect. Just as Sebastian and Mia are about to kiss during the screening of Rebel Without a Cause... the film reel burns up, and they decide to seek a different place (the Griffith Observatory, just like the film they just watched) to have their kiss.
  • Nice Guy: Keith is consistently courteous, even to those who disagree with him.
    • David as well, who appears to be a pleasant, patient man and a good husband and father.
  • The Oner: All of the film's big musical numbers are edited to look like this.
    • Crowd Song "Another Day of Sun" is six minutes long, and even though it's actually three shots connected by Whip Pans, each of those shots is very long by itself, and comprises not only the song but also the establishing shot beforehand and about a minute of Mia and Sebastian's initial Meet Cute. The amount of camera movement is in contrast to recent major live-action movie musicals, such as The Phantom of the Opera (2004) and Les Misérables (2012), which often had very static cameras during their musical numbers.
    • "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" is shot in one take running for 3:34 minutes, with the camera zooming into Mia, doing a pan completely around her head, then zooming back out. The song takes place entirely within this shot, and although the lighting changes, the shot never breaks.
  • Orbital Kiss: Mia imagines having one with Sebastian in her Fantasy Sequence at the end.
  • Principles Zealot: Sebastian is this in regards to jazz, not only engaging in a personal crusade to restore its popularity but even turning up his nose at attempts to modernize it to appeal to a younger audience.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: "Summer Montage / Madeline" and "Cincinnati" are reworked versions of "Overture", from Damien Chazelle's feature-length debut Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: Played With; Sebastian is a traditional jazz musician, but as money becomes tight, his friend Keith invites him to be in his jazz/pop/R&B fusion band. It's obvious that Sebastian hates the type of music and he's giving up on his dreams, and it's exemplified in a musical sequence where Keith's band plays a sold-out show complete with dancers. But Keith isn't portrayed antagonistically, in fact he actually makes a great point about Sebastian self-sabotaging himself and how traditional jazz cannot be popular again until it evolves to be more like what people are listening to today.
  • Rule of Pool: The end of "Someone in the Crowd" exaggerates this trope as a man in a suit does a flip off a balcony into a pool below, and is followed by several other fully dressed men jumping into said pool.
  • Rule of Three: The comic scene that sees Mia auditioning for roles as a doctor, policewoman and teacher in one sequence.
  • Running Gag: Sebastian honking his car horn very obnoxiously at Mia. It's how they first meet, although neither seem to remember it later. Later, he does it whenever he picks her up for a date.
  • Save Our Students: A role in one of these kinds of movies is part of a montage of failed auditions we see Mia in.
    "No, Jamal... you be trippin'."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Mia believes that her show has failed and she's become a laughingstock who can't even pay back the theatre for hosting her work, she instantly gives up and tells Sebastian that she's going back to Nevada. It takes a lot of convincing from Sebastian (and a well-timed call from a casting director) to bring her back.
  • Second-Act Breakup: What starts off as a romantic surprise dinner escalates into a shouting argument and tears when Mia admits she's unsure if her play will succeed and Sebastian admits he only joined Keith's band (compromising his principles for financial stability) because he thought that was what she wanted.
  • Serious Business: Sebastian treats classic jazz this way. His long-winded speeches on jazz annoy just about everyone who hears them, including Mia and Keith, the latter of whom calls him a Principles Zealot who's holding back his own career because of his insistence on what jazz "should" be.
  • Set Behind the Scenes: The movie follows two characters trying to make it in the entertainment industry.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Both Sebastian and Mia show off their interests through their knowledge of music and cinema.
      • Sebastian name-drops several jazz musicians and wants his jazz bar to be named after one.
      • Mia has a giant poster of Ingrid Bergman in her bedroom and shows Sebastian a window to a building that was seen in Casablanca.
      • Mia and Sebastian go see Rebel Without a Cause. Since the screening is interrupted because the film reel melts, they decide to go to Griffith Observatory, which they just saw in the movie.
    • The constant visual references to movie musicals in the background of musical numbers as seen here.
    • The movie itself being filmed in Cinemascope was confirmed as a shout-out to 1950s movie musicals.
    • Keith's band, The Messengers, harkens to '60s-'80s funk, soul, and R&B bands like The Spinners, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Temptations, and The Ohio Players that all took a lot of inspiration from jazz.
    • During Mia's Failure Montage, she plays a tough teacher in an inner-city school, which is a clear reference to Dangerous Minds down to putting on Michelle Pfeiffer's leather jacket.
    • At the beginning of the '80s pool party scene, a woman in a red bikini gets a Sexy Surfacing Shot as she exits the pool and appears to grasp the front closure of her top, which is reminiscent of the famous scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
  • Silent Snarker: If Sebastian is at the keys (where he'd have no opportunity to speak) and is asked to play (or do) something he feels is beneath him, the displeasure will show on his face.
  • Smash to Black: As the crowd cheers on Sebastian's band, The Messengers, the screen cuts to a black title card with the word "Fall" with an abrupt stop to the cheering.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Aside from a love of jazz, La La Land serves as the antithesis to Whiplash, Damien Chazelle's previous film. This is most notable in the two films' tones — where Whiplash was dark and oppressive with a tinge of Black Comedy, La La Land is a bright, sparkling, old-fashioned Hollywood musical with just a hint of modern cynicism. Even the one narrative twist they have in common (career interests ruin the main love story) is presented very differently: Andrew Neiman drives Nicole away from him due to his obsession with jazz and even after the big concert will still die young and a miserable wreck just like the men he idolized, while Mia and Sebastian get exactly what they want out of their careers even if they don't end up together. There's even a counterpart in the characters of J.K. Simmons, going from a mean guy who's a jazz maniac to a mean guy who doesn't want to hear any jazz from Sebastian.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: The opener has a huge number of people dancing amongst the cars on a highway.
  • Star-Making Role: In-universe. It's implied that the movie Mia made in Paris landed her first big break as an actress.
  • Starving Artist: Mia, Sebastian, and virtually the entire supporting cast of characters. When the movie starts, Mia is sharing an apartment with three other girls, while Sebastian is living in a threadbare apartment and taking gigs in dingy bars to get by.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • A lot of the productions that Mia is auditioning for sound pretty bad, and Mia's line reads aren't exactly great, either.
      Mia: (reading from a script) This is my classroom! You don't like it, the door's to my left!
      Casting Director: Lady, why you be trippin' like that?
      Mia: No, Jamal... you be trippin'.
    • The very bad Synth-Pop cover band that Sebastian is forced to join.
  • Take Our Word for It: Mia's one-woman play, "So Long, Boulder City". As opposed to Sebastian repeatedly showcasing his piano playing and dancing, the audience never actually sees any of the play beyond a single page of written dialogue and Mia walking onto the stage at the beginning to speak. Also subverted — while her performance was apparently so good that it attracted the attention of a major casting director (and leads to an audition where her monologue/song is shown in full), it also caused two stagehands to criticize it behind Mia's back.
  • Take That!: Mia sees Sebastian performing at a party after he rudely brushed her off in the restaurant. She decides to get back at him in the cruelest way possible: requesting his band plays "I Ran."
    "Requesting 'I Ran' from a serious musician is just- it's too far."
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Mia flees back to her parents' house after her one-woman play bombs determined she's quit acting.
  • Theme Naming: Three of the musical numbers are named after (or associated with) periods of the day. The opening number "Another Day of Sun", "A Lovely Night", and the melancholy "City of Stars".
  • Totally Radical: Played for Laughs; at the end of a string of auditions for bad roles, Mia is auditioning for a Save Our Students movie, leading to an exchange between her and the casting director on which of their characters "be trippin'" delivered with utmost seriousness.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: During the climax of "Audition", the pitch shifts four semitones up from F to A.
  • Two-Timer Date: Mia runs out on a dinner date with Greg to go see Rebel Without a Cause with Sebastian. Later subverted, when Sebastian attends a photo shoot with his band and misses the premiere of Mia's one-woman stage show.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Keith. His offer to Sebastian is the start of his relationship's downfall.
  • Waiting for a Break: Mia works as a barista while auditioning for roles.
  • Wham Line: "Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass 'cause it made you feel better about yourself." It's the final word Sebastian gets in a bitter fight he has with Mia about the direction his career is going on. The silence between them afterwards, along with Mia being visibly on the verge of tears, indicates he knows he went too far. It's even given an appropriate visual metaphor with the dish Sebastian was cooking in the oven burning and setting off the smoke alarm.
  • Wham Shot: The five-year Time Skip in the epilogue shows Mia becoming a famous celebrity living happily in a large villa. When she got home, she walks over to and kisses her husband... who is not Sebastian, having a little child with him to boot.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final scene of the movie jumps five years into the future to show that Mia and Sebastian are no longer together, but that Mia has become a big movie star and is now Happily Married with a child, while Sebastian has finally opened his jazz club which is a success.

Here's to the ones who dream
Foolish, as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that ache
Here's to the mess we make...


Video Example(s):


City of Stars

The song from La La Land that won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / SignatureSong

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