La La Land is a 2016 film directed and written by American filmmaker Damien Chazelle. It was nominated for 14 Oscars, winning five. It is a homage to former musicals, with lots of references to films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is a musical, and the score was composed by Chazelle’s former classmate Justin Hurwitz. The lyrics were written by Pasek and Paul, and they are in line with the film’s main themes of love, art and dreams. The very last song of the film, called ”Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, truly conveys the film’s message about the importance of dreams.
In the song, Mia—played brilliantly by Emma Stone—sings of her aunt who moved to Paris to pursue her dreams of becoming an artist. The first verse tells of how she jumped into the river Seine, which functions as an allegory about taking a leap of faith. Mia’s aunt ”leapt without looking”, both when she stumbled into the Seine and when she moved to Paris. She ignored the low odds of making it as an artist, she ignored all the hardships and struggles she would face. Because if she would have calculated the risks, she wouldn’t have dared to do it. The ones who succeed are the ones who leap without looking, who don’t take the safe bets. They are the fools who dream.
The story about Mia’s aunt also reflects Mia’s own life. Mia moved to L.A. to become an actress, just like her aunt moved to Paris to be an artist. Mia takes a leap of faith every time she goes to an audition; there’s a small chance of success and fame but a big risk of rejection and humiliation. And despite her constant failures, she keeps trying. The song goes, ”the water was freezing, she spent a month sneezing”, which symbolizes the inevitable suffering that comes with taking risks and pursuing your dreams.
In the second verse, Mia describes her aunt in ways that are reminiscent to herself. Just like her aunt ”captures feelings inside frames” by painting, so does Mia by acting for the film screen. She sings that her aunt ”lived in her liquor”, meaning she had alcohol problems. Alcohol reduces your ability to measure consequences, thus enables you to do things you would’t do otherwise, for example taking big risks. In a way, it gives you courage, but it can also be foolish to drink, just like it can be foolish to dream.
In the bridge of the song, Mia sings about the value of artists. She says art can ”give us new colors to see”; it can inspire our imagination and make us think outside of the box; it can give us new perspectives on things; it can lead society in certain directions; it can comfort and encourage us. But it requires madness to break out of the norms of society and your own comfort zone to make groundbreaking art. Only a fool would do it, but those fools are needed.
Art can have a great impact on the world. Art remains long after the artist’s death, continuously influencing culture and people. It is an essential part of human experience. That’s why art is needed, and that’s why creative people who dare to dream and pursue those dreams are needed. They are the fools who change the world.
The message of the song is in line with something Steve Jobs has said:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
La La Land is an encouragement for people to dream big dreams even though they seem crazy, and to pursue those dreams even though they seem impossible, and never to give up no matter how hard it is. It is a tribute to art and artistry. It is a love story, though less about the love between two persons, and more about the love of an aspiration. It is an appeal for hope in an age of doubt.
It is for the fools who dream.