I KNEW I was in for an interesting movie experience when, at the first act of the film “La la land,” I overheard two millennial girls in seats in front of me gushing over Ryan Gosling’s character. He plays the character of Seb, who is a jazz piano artist, and he was about to be stood up in front a movie house by his love interest, the ebullient Emma Stone, who plays an aspiring Hollywood actress. Drawing out all the empathy their young hearts can muster, the young millenials both sighed, with one exclaiming sympathetically, “hala si angkol...”

Now, for Ryan Gosling to have been pejoratively referred to as “Uncle” by millennials, which is the same as calling the 36-year old Hollywood star as an old man, nay ancient, according to the lexicon of the jeje generation, I leave that to his legion of fans, most of whom are also entering the “Auntie” stage, to painfully consider.

Me, I am taken instead, not by the star-crossed narrative of the lovers that the millennials and many other moviegoers will latch on, but by the film’s uneasy contemplation on the impossibility of genuine sustained human relations under the contemporary political, economic, and cultural landscape.

The film is set in present-day Hollywood, California with the two protagonists trying to eke out a living in the margins as they chase their proverbial American dream. Mia, played by Emma Stone, is the archetypal coffee shop waitress desperate for a casting call back while Seb, is a jazz musician whose pipe dream is to own and operate a jazz club to preserve the vanishing American art form. Before they achieve their respective dreams, of course, they meet and fall in love amid much dance and song.

She waits and serves coffee for the actresses she aspires to be while he, plays in either an 80s synth-pop tribute band or a pop-jazz commercial outfit to save up for that jazz club. They are both embroiled in various compromising accommodations with the system while they wait for the big break.

However, between the two, it is Seb who has a clear understanding of the politics in his art that ultimately burdens him even more. He was even roasted for it by Mia when he started playing for that pop-jazz band in order to make her happy. Although, the one-man messianic crusade of a WASP that is Gosling is suspicious given that jazz is regarded by many as an art form emanating from black struggle and resistance.

Mia, on the other hand, basically gets away with everything through her doe-eyed nymphet portrayal of the Hollywood dream come true. She even gets to appropriate the struggles of the cultural misfits and the rebels in that final spiel she makes that launches her career, a moment that also marked her departure away from Seb and her life in America’s cultural margins toward its center.

It is really no different from the arrogance and self-importance on full display at the awards ceremony honoring the same film and the same actors encapsulated in that viral speech of the famous and respected actress. The liberals who have lorded over the decay of contemporary culture and who have created the neoconservative monster that is Trump are now remolding themselves as rebels and misfits in order to swing the political pendulum back to their neoliberal side.

The fact that many swoon over and tolerate Mia’s career victory as necessary, and her abandonment of Seb as a given, exposes the dominant ideological frame that the film panders too. “Things change, and people do too,” are just some of the justifications that float around.

But while the rest of the movie watching public were placated by a recourse to this flimsy excuse while wiping away their tears at the end of the film, there I was giving Mia my middle finger as I walked down the theatre aisle for the sell out that she was. I believe I was channeling the meaning of Gosling’s wry smile at the end of the film more accurately than what many who do not want to be unsettled give him credit for.

La la land is not so much a love story than a horror musical. That might sound strange, but for those who have seen it, especially the final act of the film, what was once an engaging story of the struggles of adult love, quickly turn into a harrowing ending delivered stealthily but still soul-crushingly in a song and dance montage and routine. The underdogs once bounded by their shared struggles in the margins of Hollywood are separated by the seductive and alluring forces greater than their feeble romance. Once more, capital wins versus love.