[written this past Monday immediately after leaving the theatre]

I just went to see the musical-movie, La La Land. Not being a big romance movie fan, based on the preview I had seen I would never have chosen to go had my wife, daughter and a guy friend all said to me very insistently: YOU MUST SEE THIS. I went and I am so grateful I went.

I’m not an art critic, but a theologian, which could make this a bit of an odd take. With that warning in mind, a few meandering thoughts…

It’s a movie about dreams, love, art, passion, imagination, success, failure, heartbreak, choice, destiny and so much more. It touched something very deep in me, as all great art should, and helped me see parts of my own life story with fresh eyes. Drama, if done well, should unveil the world anew; stretch your horizons; fill your palette with more colors with which to see and paint the world. In fact, I think I remember St. Catherine of Genoa referring to a vision of Paradise she had which, she said, revealed to her colors she had never seen before. The hard thing about that is you can’t describe them, because they don’t exist in human experience. This movie gave me some new colors that illumined parts of my life I had not been able to see beauty in before. My wife said to me before I saw it, “It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.” Seemed enigmatic until I saw it, and now I get it.

After it was over, I sat– or rather, hid! — and cried for quite a time. I am not a crier. The tears did not flow from being touched by this or that sentimental scene. Rather, tears came because I saw something unexpected and received an insight into life I was unprepared for. What? Something like: I saw splendor in my very ordinary life. I saw providence afresh in my personal story. I sensed a strange hope in my dashed dreams and my darkest failures. Though the movie contained no explicitly religious themes, it revealed to me the surprises that spring from divine providence. But this was more like an intuition than a clear concept, like the invisible light of the sun which only shows its spectrum when it strikes concrete objects; that can only be appreciated in reflection (or refraction!).

Thank you, God, for the gift of art.

Obviously I really recommend seeing it.

Slight spoiler:

Among my favorite scenes was when Mia auditioned for a role in a movie set in Paris. She’s asked to make up a story on the spot. She tells of an Aunt who seems to have inspired Mia’s own artistic vocation. This woman was a free spirit with an artist’s soul who lived both triumph and tragedy. Her greatness, to Mia, was in choosing to live not merely admiring the beauty in life at a safe and calculating distance, but risking the embrace her “mission” to experience and bring beauty, with all its terror and wonder, into the world. Only those who have taken this risk, who have drunk deeply of reality and lived to tell of it, can recite so eloquently of its majesty. St. John Paul II says as much:

What artists manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendor which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit.

Okay, here’s Mia’s audition song (text and song), The Fools Who Dream:

My aunt used to live in Paris
I remember, she used to come home and tell us
stories about being abroad and
I remember that she told us she jumped in the river once,

She smiled,
Leapt, without looking
And She tumbled into the Seine!
The water was freezing
she spent a month sneezing
but said she would do it, again

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

She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
Sunset inside a frame
She lived in her liquor
and died with a flicker
I’ll always remember the flame

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

She told me:
A bit of madness is key
to give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?

And that’s why they need us,
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here’s to the fools
who dream
Crazy, as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make

I trace it all back,
to that
Her, and the snow, and the Seine
Smiling through it
She said
She’d do it, Again

5 comments on “LA LA LAND

  1. Jennifer says:

    Getting all teared up @ this! This Christmas break has been so plain and low-key thanks to a stomach flu that has knocked out just about everyone in southern Ontario but me. We basically just hung out, crammed into my mom’s for days on end because either one of us was puking or sleeping it off or the friends we had planned to visit were puking themselves. It was magnificent in its ordinariness! God’s Spirit was pouring out in conversations had over stacks of dishes being waged and the folding of towels and bed shwere. My heart was going to burst at least a dozen times over the sweetness of my children playing cards or solving jigsaw puzzles with their granny or playing cafe for days with their favourite cousins. And then there was my brother’s dog who was glued to me and sat in my lap for ages, forcing me to sit down and actually do nothing for at least 20 minutes a day – unheard of for me! Anyway, as I was driving home from Mass one morning I was reflecting on how many opportunities were ripe with grace, chances to do the little things with great love – and sparkling like hidden treasures waiting to be found in these mundane moments. It was one of those gloomy winter skies when a few valiant sunbeams managed to pierce the clouds and fill the grey with resilient beams of gold. Glorious! And it struck me how it is only contrasted against the ombre of clouds or other shade that the wonder of sunbeams reveal themselves. And I was awash with wonder at the beauty of thus messy, extra-ordinary-ordinary life.

    So in fewer words I totes get what you’re saying.

    P.s. I wish to challenge your claim not to be a crier… I think your blog archives betray you ;).

    • Jennifer says:

      *washing not waging dishes and folding bed sheets.

    • Wow! Jenn’s back, and she’s roaring! Love love love this take on your staycay, and how you handled the sickness. “It was one of those gloomy winter skies when a few valiant sunbeams managed to pierce the clouds and fill the grey with resilient beams of gold.” THAT is writing.
      And yes, I should have been more clear that “I am not a crier” meant not really a crier in movies. In real life, different story. 😉
      Blessings to you on this Epiphany Day (strictly speaking), and this start of Mardi Gras season!
      Love to hear from you. Health and all good to your family! Pax

  2. Nos says:

    Small scale J still waiting for the book … blessings from your southern warm brother in CHRIST nos…

    • Jennifer says:

      Thanks guys, discerning a lot about how much time to spend writing. Thanks for the encouragement . Will keep you posted.
      Your knee-deep-in-snow sister,j

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