Friday, March 24, 2017

Hidden Figures vs La La Land

When these two movies first came out, it was around Valentine’s Day. I asked Hubs to take me to the see Hidden Figures because I didn’t think a singing and dancing musical would be his thing. But, he surprised me the next day by asking if I’d like to see La La Land, too. Um, yeah!

I enjoyed both movies, but definitely one over the other. As the week wore on, I puzzled over this because that’s what I do now that I’ve begun learning how to write. It’s ruined movies for me, and yet enhanced them at the same time.

My conclusion was that, as far as I could tell, Hidden Figures had deeper needs than La La Land. Very strong goals for both, but really, what did the characters in La La Land need?

Let's first look at Hidden Figures. The real life Katherine Johnson is portrayed by Taraji P. Henson. Katherine’s Secret Desire is acceptance. It is noted that all three of the leads have this Inner Need. She proves this during her much-deserved tirade after Al Harrison, played by Kevin Costner, asks why she’s gone from her desk so long every day. Once she lays it all out for him, how she has walk to the “colored” restroom a half a mile away, can only drink out of the “colored only” coffee pot someone has placed next to the other one, and how she can’t afford pearls, the only jewelry she’s been told is acceptable at NASA, she finally gets the respect she deserves from her boss, who up until now has been clueless. She still has an uphill battle, but this scene brings home her Inner Need (aka, Secret Desire.) To be accepted by her peers. A strong case, I believe.

Now, La La Land. Mia, played by Emma Stone, is a struggling actress. She’s single and lightly dating, but her main focus is on becoming famous. That’s her Goal, a pretty strong one, I might add. But what is her need? The only thing I could come up with was her need to stay humble, even as she conquers her world. When she was a barista at a coffee shop on a studio lot, she loved that a particular famous actress refused a free cup of coffee. This is Mia’s standard to live by. At the end, when she’s finally made it, a similar thing happens as she now gets coffee. She’s the one everybody is starry eyed over in the coffee shop, and she is the one who now refuses the free cup of coffee and insists on paying. Is this a strong enough Need?

I liked the movie a lot. The singing and dancing reminded me of my favorite movies back in the MGM days, as it was designed to do. The story line was okay, but still, I would cheer for it a lot more if Mia had expressed a deeper Secret Desire than to be loved by millions and still stay humble. Sebastian was no better. I couldn’t separate his Secret Desire from his Goal, to open his own jazz club. Jazz was his life, his goal, his need to survive, everything. Really? Maybe I’ve been too spoiled with Happily Ever Afters and Romantic Comedies where the character arc starts down here and lands up there. Maybe La La Land was supposed to be just what it was. A real-life portrayal of two jaded people driven by the only lifestyle they knew. Nah! There was something missing and that’s why I chose Hidden Figures for my Best Movie of the weekend award.

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