Sunday, January 13, 2013

Les Misérables

  I have been begging Peter to take us to Disney World for about two and a half years now. The last time we went was about two and a half years ago. I have lots of great arguments about why we should go, and they are good arguments too. But none strong enough to counter Pete's arguements that  it's crowded and expensive and far and our kids have fun just about anywhere. When it comes down to it, he just doesn't love Disney like I do. There are two types of people, those who love Disney, and those who don't. I thought it was very insightful when my friend Heather explained one reason could be that  Disney is "like Christmas. You need early exposure to it when you still believe in unicorns and fairies and The Force for its magic to penetrate your soul." Otherwise it's like "introducing a ten year old to the concept of Santa." Cool but not magical. Well for me, it is magical. For Peter, it's expensive and crowded. 
  I was reminded of Heather's post on Disneyland this morning when I listened to a movie review of Les Misérables. One critic (Slate.com's David Haglund) made the same observation about the musical. He said that you really need to have been exposed to the musical at a young age in order for its magic to penetrate your soul. He could not think of anyone he knew, and neither can I, who was a fanatic of Les Mis, that wasn't exposed to it at a tween-ish age. Haglund cleverly observed that this might be explained by the fact that Jean Valjean is like a comic book hero. Super human strength, check. Villan who is obsessed with taking the hero down, check. Goes around doing good for others, check. I don't know if that's what drew me to the musical, but I am a broadway fanatic and a Les Misérables superfan.  Before the movie came out, it had been a couple of years since I had listened to the music, but I don't know anyone who listened to it more than I did as a kid. My parents saw the show when I was about 9 or 10, they brought home one of those new CD thingies and souvenir program. I looked through the program and listened to the music every day for months, maybe even years. I dreamt of playing young Cosette,  and then Eponine when I got older. I read the book in college and fell in love all over again.  Really, I am a superfan.

   Pete raised another interesting question. Is there anyone who read the book before they heard the music that absolutely adores the musical? Peter says no. I don't know, we'll have to do some polling. I wonder if my friend Sarah D' read the book first. I'll be she's a superfan. I heard that when someone at church once asked Sarah what her favorite book was, she immediately answered Les Misérables. When she opened up the RS newsletter that Sunday, she learned that her favorite book was "Lame Is Rob." True story. 

   So you can guess how excited I was about the film coming out. I didn't see it right away. But I read dozens of Facebook posts about people crying through the movie. My friends loved it. Heck, I got choked up every time I saw a trailer! "Did you know it wasn't pre-recorded?" I would knowingly say to my friends. They already knew. Everyone already knows that. Last weekend we had a free night, I told Pete I wanted to see it to which he responded, "Meh, I'm still not sure whether or not I want to see that in the theater." So I guess that he wasn't exposed to Les Mis at a young age either. What kind of parents did you have Pete? Do we even know each other anymore? Why are you trying to change who I am?After some dramatics on my part, we got tickets. 
 
  I arrived at the theater ready, extra tissues, no eye make-up. The show started. And I didn't shed a tear. I have to admit that I was very moved in the scene just after the bishop gives Valjean the silver and he decides to become an honest man, (I think that might just be the remnants of Dosteyovsky talkin' though--I'm keen on themes of redemption) But no crying here. I should have guessed that the film would feel a little off for me right from the opener when everyone was singing "Look down,'' but no one was actually looking down, they were all looking up. Don't get me wrong, Russel Crowe had me pretty close to tears, but for all the wrong reasons. Even during, "I Dreamed A Dream," nothing. I was actually surprised that so many people were moved to tears during that scene because the 10 minutes leading up to it were totally weird. It was almost like the Lovely Ladies scene was directed by Tim Burton. Surreal and creepy but trying to be funny. I can't switch gears like that. I'm not a machine. Or maybe I am a machine, because I felt nothing. The entire movie I was a bit confused. The close ups weren't raw and emotional, just sort of strange, some people were broadway stars, some were actors who could sing, some were just actors. I kept thinking that I should be really moved, but I never was. I even snuck out half way through to tell the manager that the volume was too quiet. And you know another thing that bugged me? At then end, when Fantine's ghost came to take Valjean up to heaven, why was her hair still short? I think she should have been completely de-whorified. I'm saying that the film should be completely true to the musical, or that every singer needed to be perfect. But it could have been a great movie and it wasn't.

  When the movie ended, I had to admit that I liked it, I don't know if it was because I genuinely liked it, or if I was just defensive because Peter didn't love it. I'm going to have to see it again to decide. As soon as we got home, I hurried to my computer to listen to the music. But I think it's pretty telling that I had to listen to the original '87 version and I couldn't bring myself to re-listen to a single song from the movie. I'm kind of in this state of limbo where I can't really say that I loved the movie, but I feel this really strong desire to see it again. If anyone has any input to help me work through this that would be great, but I think that the take home lesson from all of this is that Peter should give the green light on a Disney World Vacation, don't you?
  

6 comments:

susan said...

I was once a superfan. I liked the movie, but did not love it. I thought it was good, but I kept getting distracted by Tripp Vanderbilt singing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" when he should've been off committing adultery with Serena Van der Woodsen. I kept laughing to myself about that during all the serious dramatic moments. He was a terrible congressman, how can he lead a revolution?!

sara said...

First of all, your point about Disney Magic is a real epiphany to me. I think that's what Aaron's problem is too - he does not understand about Disney magic and I think he never went as a kid. The only two times I've been able to convince him to go are the time my parents paid for it, and the time we won free admission tickets. I wonder if it will be the same for Les Mis? We haven't seen it yet... I saw the play twice in high school and while I'm not a "superfan" like yourself, I am most decidedly a fan. I even read the book, which I know I've mentioned before because it's one of my proudest accomplishments.

Thanks for the movie review; I knew there had to be somebody who saw it who didn't cry... I cry at commercials though, so I probably will during Les Mis. Oh, and Lame Is Rob? That's hilarious!

cmwillison said...

I found your blog a year ago randomly( do a search on gauze underwear and you come up) and found it so entertaining i went back and read the old posts. I also follow heather's blog which i found after joining the multiples group in N. Va. around the time i found out i was having twins. i often wondered if you two ladies knew each other. I see that you do after all. Serendipity.keep up the great work!

Sarah d' said...

Here's the thing. I am somewhat of a medium-ish super fan of Les Mis. I am as snobbish as they come when it comes to the music because I was exposed to it in LONDON at age SEVENTEEN for goodness sakes! I served my mission in FRANCE! Do I really have a choice? But when it came to the movie, I had a choice. I didn't know I had a choice because I thought my overly sentimental, spoiled 17-year-old self made me drag my husband to the theater the day after Les Mis was released and she made my heart pound as the intro to "Look Down" drummed through the surround-sound and she even went so far as to email all of her family members and tell them that they "like, totally had to see it because they, like, recorded all of the singing live and everythin'!" But then. . . the much, much older me woke up about one minute into the movie and said, "Hang on there, cupcake. This is un morceau de caca!" and the me now and the teenage me literally had un bataille de chats throughout the rest of the movie. I was so angry that I wanted to scream and throw big gobs of brie at the suffocating camera angles and the terrifying overacting and the donkey-like monotone of Javier. But then, I found myself loving a few (a very few, mind you) things about it in a blissful, naively stupid, high-school crush kind of way. I wish we could have seen it together.
PS It was actually Emily who was quoted as saying her favorite book was "Lame is Rob" and it was the newspaper at Ricks College that did the quoting. And they were interviewing her because she had just been crowned Woman of the (freaking) YEAR (something I would never, ever be crowned as). AND she was then quoted in the New Yorker. The tagline with the quote from the Ricks College Scroll? "So much for educated woman." Awesome.

Nathan & Michelle Watabe said...

I had similar feelings about Les Mis. SO excited to see it, cried at all the previews, brought tissue and didn't shed a tear. I think my hopes were a little high, even though people told me to lower them. It was good, but I needed an intermission. (Being 9 months prego didn't help, it was so uncomfortable to sit for 3 hours). I'm excited to watch it on DVD, in three parts. Nate has been listening to the music (not the music from the movie, but earlier, better versions) non-stop since we got home from the movie. We were both exposed at an early age. I think your theories are correct. I wasn't exposed to disney magic at a young enough age and I'm with Pete about Disney. Nate's the one begging to go back. Neither Nate or I were raised in big Santa houses, but I'm way more into Santa than he is. Anyway, I totally understand your unsettled, jury-is-still-out feelings about the movie.

Your post about Ezra killed me. I was laughing so hard picturing him at the Christmas Program. And then the Chick-Fil-A stories were so close to home. I have had those play place experiences more than once. I think they happen even more at Chick-Fil-A because it's on the hoity-toiter end of fast food, so you have the more uptight moms there. I hate dealing with moms in public. Especially moms who obvioulsy don't have enough children to make them chill.

Heather said...

So many points. Where to begin?

First of all, hey best friend! Sorry we were lame/late last night.

Second, thanks for mentioning my blog in your blog. I feel so, so...legit.

Thirdly, despite my post-Disneyland post in which I swore off Disneyland until the boys are both tall enough to ride Space Mountain, I told Kent the other day I wanted to take Fluffy to D-land again. I CAN'T HELP MYSELF! Disneyland is a religion conviction which defies logic and practicality.

Fourth, I loved Lame Is Rob when I first read it in high-school and, I guess consequently, I have never been as crazy about the musical. Sure I've been performing the songs for 16 years now, but I don't listen to them. I've seen it live a couple of times and liked it, but it didn't make my sob buckets of ugly, gasping tears like I did finishing the book in my sister's dorm room when I was 15.

I'm afraid to see the movie. I want so badly for it to be good. I feel like a tennis parent about it. I can't watch because I'm rooting too hard for it not to fail me.