Meg and I finally got around to watching LaLaLand. It was not at the top of my list, but Meg was excited. I knew it was a musical and I understand musicals. I can break out with “the hills are alive” (and do occasionally – I am a weird guy), but not really out of love, only repetition. My family – especially my sister – loves musicals. Through them I have seen countless and many repeatedly. Some were okay – others literal punishments (Mom would threaten South Pacific if I acted up – the American version of water torture).
LaLaLand had multiple fun scenes – like the opening traffic jam – but my first thought came during their tap dance. Does Hollywood still know how to tap dance? Of course I have never tapped, but this movie made me feel like I could. Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly never gave me that feeling.
Musicals – at least those from my childhood – embraced the make believe. After all, the world does not jump into song. I wish it did, and if you hang around me long enough I will begin whistling or singing a to-do list. Occasionally my daughters humor me and join in as I sing “stop bothering your mother”, but no one jumps into sing the next verse. No knows the next verse. But in a musical – song and dance erupts in every location. And everyone has a part. And in this pretend symphony of a world, everything is possible. People fall in love. Problems are solved. Bing sings, and it snows.
But LaLaLand was a collision of the real and imaginary. Not only did the tap dancers need practice, the vocals weren’t that great. While the acting was splendid – have we ever cared about acting in a musical? And maybe this was all on purpose, because the movie did not tie up nicely — everything wasn’t right in the end. For that matter, I got up thinking their world was wrong.
The movie presented a choice. Career or Love. The movie chose career. A lot of people do. But the movie also showed us the possibility of love – the possibility that didn’t happen. It was played out in a splendid song and dance – changing all the moments of the movie. And at end of the scene love sat together holding hands. Then it was back to reality.
Maybe this is false choice (career or love). But all of our culture seems designed to push us toward career. We do not have friendship classes, instead lots of math classes (and less recess). Our culture wants us to be productive members of society. Of course “productive” has nothing to do with raising a family or helping a neighbor and everything to do with becoming cogs in capitalism. When our culture asks, “what do you do?” Holding hands with my wife is not the answer – the answer is my job title. This title has a way of defining our value as a person.
Our careers are important. But in my experience, the best things in my life have nothing to do with career and everything to do with relationship.
At the end of LaLaLand the characters were more famous, respected, wealthy… but not together. I was left thinking they made the wrong choice, glad i at least had snacks with the movie, and thrilled Megan and I chose each other. Maybe I am still living in the naive world of early musicals. But for my life, love is worth sacrificing everything. My career… well, there are other places to work. The world does not hold another Megan.
This Wednesday our summer small group begins. It is all about relationships. Not just with our spouse, but with every kind of neighbor. The ones next door, the ones we don’t know, our family, and even our enemies. It all draws from the greatest commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor. If you are interested, you can learn more here or email me for details.