I was lucky enough to experience an advanced screening of the film Les Misérables this Tuesday. I am a self-proclaimed musical theatre aficionado, so you can imagine the glee in my eyes this day. Opting for the handicap seat versus the press seats (a nice man in a wheel chair said I could have his seat) — since I knew I could feel in peace there and, well, I am also blind — I sat joyful with my bright blue stilettos in my handicap seat (don’t judge), after a full year of anticipation. The scoop is this movie has been under development since the 80’s, which makes me feel a little better about all those notes under my bed waiting to be a script.
Alrighty, now let’s get the critical things out of the way. Yes, the love story is not as powerful as the Broadway musical, but this is to create more drama in all the other subplots. Most songs/lyrics are shortened to fit cinema format. And there is of course Russell Crow. Oh dear! Russell Crow. How I yearned for Broadway’s stage actor, Colm Wilkinson. Some of us in the theatre even thought the story line should be immediately altered and his death should occur in the opening act. There were a few critical scenes that abruptly jolted you out of the moment because of careless editing. Nonetheless, we will let it pass because the naked eye could not possible catch them.
Enough with the crazy old lady hoopla, I will carry on with my enlightened thought. We are in an era where Marie Antoinette is glorified on film by Miss Copola and other pop culture events and yet our society yearns for basic human factors. Social erosion is here and yet our modern culture feeds it like a vulture. Saying that, I loved the adaptation as its own powerhouse for change. As a filmmaker myself, I can proclaim the social phenomenon this film had on me personally and hope it does for others as well.
I like to think we have little angels that drop into our lives from time to time. I have a French humanist one beside me every day and for the sake of keeping this article on track I will briefly detail his mark in my world. I considered myself a fun-loving Marie Antoinette idolizing American girl. “Let them eat cake,” I secretly joked, but indeed how could I know such pain and furthermore comprehend its suffering. But wait, how could my French humanist, who in actuality is a bourgeoisie himself, understand it? I imagine some people are faced with far more complex situations than they lead the world to believe. Unhappiness can happen in castles. I am also convinced some people are born with special compassionate hearts that change the world (mine has been forever altered by his beautiful view of the world).
The French Revolution brought times of uncertainty and many things sprung from this dissolution. Les Misérables was born from one man, Victor Hugo, who believed so long as the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood exist, books like his were meant to be written. He made us see the world through the eyes of a helpless mother, a lonely child and a man fighting for his redemption. Anne Hathaway, who portrays Fatine, is beyond compelling. Her scenes are few and far between but could make anyone realize the pitfalls we face that have little mercy on our lives. The struggles become her hell on earth, as we can all relate to peaks of darkness. Her scenes will win this extraordinary actor accolades, I am certain. Newcomer Samantha Barks who plays Éponine has my attention as well. Her rendition of On my own is precisely the way unrequited love should sound and look like. Bravo! What an amazing cast and director (Tom Hooper) for their outstanding take on this classic tale.
In lure of the recent tragedy in our country, we have somehow become more aware of the fragile lives of our children. Some thought the death of a child through gunfire in one scene could be considered insensitive. For me, it was the nerve that struck harshly and abruptly but nonetheless STRUCK! What was I thinking? Should the children also eat cake? How was this in any way human? Is this what the French humanist spoke of? Is this what a country went through to receive benefits for all? Death, poverty and despair had to force people to revolt in union? The film set in the 1800’s has a direct impact in our modern world — the type that can reach masses, not just the elite who can purchase their Broadway tickets or have the summer to read the many volumes of Victor Hugo’s book. Many people I know want to keep knowledge, power and wealth in “bubbles”, but in reality bubbles only create resentment.
In our short lives we see many things, but the “things” that matter the most are actually the people and the things they can teach us and make us feel. Few people experience or perhaps don’t believe in love at first glance. No, I am not necessarily speaking of the romantic fairy tale type. Yes, I love that type and when Cosette played by Amanda Seyfried says to Marius when they are apart, “Tomorrow you will be world’s away and yet with you my world has started,” I swooned like no other. The love I speak of is what Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, feels for a little girl who is not his biological child. At first you think it is the lonely child (Cosette) who is the sole benefiter in this storyline and soon you realize it is her adoptive Papa who has lived a life of joy with this charming child by his side. His true redemption comes in the form of loving another unconditionally, a trait the French have under their hard façade innately understood over a sea of revolutions. I believe in the end Mr. Hugo said it best: “To love another is to see the face of God.” Today I ask you, take a glance where you otherwise would have looked away. See with your heart for an instance instead of our judgmental eyes and SEE the wonders that can unfold.
A very special thank you to surgeon Dr. Mecker Moller and artist Valerie Raquel Arauz for their input, love, and company.