I am a little behind on my movie viewing. I made it to the movie theatre three times this past year which was a lot more than my average viewing experience lately. When I fly cross country on my business trips, I get to treat myself to a few movies I have missed the last few years. Now mind you, I am not a fan of musicals. The last musical I liked was Moulin Rouge and that was a cacophony at best. It was jarring and loud and made me cry. On my flight to DC from Los Angeles, I had no wi-fi access which made me less inclined to toil on my work. I had wanted a drink but because I was seated next to someone well know, I didn’t. I wanted to make sure I made a good impression -not that there is anything wrong with a drink but it was 9am after all. I thus treated myself to something I hardly ever get a chance to do these days: I watched a couple of movies.
Partly because I live in Los Angeles now and partly because I tend to dislike musicals, I was excited to see La La Land. I wanted to like it. Thus, with no WiFi and a low drive to do work, I plugged into the flight screen and dedicated myself to actually watching a movie with no interruptions and without closed captioning (a habit I got into once my son was born). But before I watched La La Land, I decided to catch The Girl on the Train. A completely different type of film that was somehow similar to La La Land in the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards and in the idea that fantasy and reality are intermixed. Fantasy may be too strong of a word, if you have watched either film.
For some reason, I started with The Girl on the Train and I was drained and captivated by the film, especially the first hour. It was completely brutal in how raw it was and how it portrayed a woman living through alcoholism and paranoia.
What got to me were the main character’s trips on the commuter train as she went into the city. She would create a narrative (a fantasy backdrop) for the individuals she would see as she whizzed by on the train. She would especially focus on those that lived in the houses the train would pass by. One couple in particular, symbolized perfection for her. She created this narrative in which the couple was madly in love and in sync. But that was not the case and she would come to figure that out and it furthered her downward spiral. I can’t tell you more than that for fear of spoiling the movie for you. All I can say is that no character was likeable and yet I was intrigued and glued to the screen.
Her need to create a fantasy life for all that she met, reminded me of how I was a storyteller when I was a kid. I would get on stage and create plots for characters on the spot. I had a richly, creative mind that went super logical at one point. Well, my mind had to be logical in order to get out of the poverty into which I was born. But I always wanted to do something creative, fantastic. Decades later, I too took the commuter train into New York and I would look out the window and daydream. I would mightily dream when there was snow on the ground. Something about snow falling from the sky that makes you spin into another world. I miss the snow, at times, for that very reason. But now I am in Los Angeles where I can daydream with palm trees and see actual scenes of fantasy filmed around the corner.
In the film, La La Land, there is a scene early on where they are looking up at the stars in the planetarium. They are wide eyed, filled with hope with a wisp of despair. Watching La La Land made me a bit nostalgic for my youth when I was often saddened by rejection but there was a quest within my narrative. Admittedly, it is nice to not be at the beginning of one’s career getting rejected and struggling for recognition. However, I somewhat miss that hunger from the days of yore. The hunger for building up one’s story and finding a path was refreshing. I probably took away the wrong message from La La Land. But for me the moral of the story was to not get too settled into one’s current standing or power. The quest should never end. I often joke I am still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. In a way, that is real and not a joke.
At the end of the day, I liked La La Land but I wasn’t enthralled by it. And I am sad about that. I wanted to be swept up in a fantasy. Sadly, I was swept up more in the fantasy of a mad woman caught up in a murder mystery. So many types of fantasy worlds out there but where do we find ourselves?