This is not a critique so much as a soliloquy. This week I have seen three tremendous Oscar-worthy movies. First I saw Fences, then Hidden Figures. Honestly, they’re two of the best I’ve seen all year, and if they don’t get some serious Oscar action I’ll be more jaded about this awards ceremony than I’ve ever been. I mean Viola Davis…she is a master class in acting. And Hidden Figures is just a damn good movie that makes you feel great while recognizing (as a white person) how wrong we have done the African American community in this country.
So, I was hesitant about La La Land. I LOVE musicals! LOVE! But, the name seemed trivial, and I couldn’t imagine this film having any real depth. Boy howdy was I wrong. This movie is why I fell in love with acting. In fact, the dance movie and musical movie changed my heart and life. I have watched Singin’ in the Rain, Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Breakin’, White Knights, and the list goes on, more times than I can count. Talk about out-of-body experiences, aiming for higher, wishing upon a star…these movies bring wonder to my life. La La Land went beyond.
This movie took me back to childhood…way back…and then it told the story of my dreams as if it walked with me through my journey. I was the child who always believed acting was my destiny. I am that dreamer. As I have aged, that dream has seemed to get farther and farther away. The Hollywood ageism against women (and men) is in my head LITERALLY every day. I can’t tell you how often I think my dream has passed me by. I sat in the theater during La La Land and cried continuously. This film held my hand through these fears and dumped me on the other side. The one negative is that I couldn’t forget that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (in all their brilliance) are, in reality, the ones who made it. Stone isn’t the girl still sitting around at 40 dreaming a dream that might never come true. Yet, somehow this film gave me reason to keep dreaming and to pick up where I left off.
For awhile, and for various reasons, I just sort of gave up. Now I realize, no matter age, no matter location, no matter anything, we must continually do what ignites our passion because THAT is when we are most beautiful. That is when we light up the world. I have always wanted to light up the world. A lot of people in my life have told me I want to act for the attention. Man, I have hated hearing those words. Who are they to tell me why I want to do something? Not going to lie, good attention, even negative attention, makes you feel less lonely in the world, but that has NEVER been why I wanted to act.
I want to act because I have always been amazed that someone can move other people with their words and actions. I have always been amazed when I sit in a theater and am transported elsewhere by someone’s God-given talent. I am awed that you can change someone for a moment or a lifetime when you play a role. I want to do that. Film and theater have been a gift to me, and I want to share that gift.
So, I will strive on. I will stop thinking about what is wrong with me and focus on the passion and the light. We should all do that, no matter our dream.
P.S. I don’t know why, but I think of one of my mentors Stan Kelly when I write this. While working with him in one show, I was able to see through gruffness and drama the beauty of someone who has transcendent talent.