Musings · My Family

Family Movie Night: Les Miserables

Yeah, you read that right.

Last night after dinner, I made popcorn and Bill and the kids and I settled in for a couple hours of song and death.

Let me back up a bit.

I grew up on musicals.  Oliver!, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins…these were a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood.  I memorized every lyric, every sigh or inhale or laugh, every skip in the well worn records played over and over on the record player. 

Oddly, I didn’t add to that collection much as I grew up.  But then, in college, I saw The Princess Bride and fell in love with Mandy Patinkin, sort of.  So, rather than do homework, I researched Mandy Patinkin and discovered he’d been in Evita, and I remembered, in some closet of my mind, ads on tv when Evita opened on Broadway and I think I kept that memory tucked in my head because just those little snippets of Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin were so powerful. 

So I bought the Evita soundtrack.  Because, basically, of “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

But then there was Patti LuPone and her powerhouse of a voice.  So I did more research…and that’s when Les Miserables joined my musical library.  The London version.  With Patti LuPone.  I also now have the Broadway version, but I’m still partial to the London rendition because shouldn’t all the characters in dramatic musicals have English accents of one sort or another? 

Anyway…then one year my sister gave me, for my birthday, tickets to see Les Miserables in Boston.  Three of us went – me, my sister, and my friend, Ralph, who is also a fan of musicals, and a great friend overall, except that he hates Evita and even MADE US LATE to a showing of it in college.  LATE.  He is not forgiven.  And he knows it.

But I digress.


So we saw that production of Les Miserables, and I loved it, of course, and had to work really hard not to sing along – loudly – with every bit of it.

Fast forward again, and I am dating a classical guitarist…and he thinks musical theatre is…how to put this…dumb.  And our discussions/arguments about this matter were frustrating and dead ended.

But I married him anyway.

And he still is not a huge fan of musicals.  But he has mellowed.

I’ve wanted to see the movie musical version of Les Miserables since the first ad came out, or maybe even before that.  But we don’t go out much, really, and I figured we’d see it on tv at some point.  It’s not like it was going to disappear.

Now, I’ve been on a sort of mini vacation from work – four whole days off in a row! – so I decided that as part of My Days For Me, I wanted to see this movie.  Bill agreed, because, like I said, he has mellowed.  Or maybe he was just tired. 

Anyway, we watched it.  With the kids.  And popcorn.  I make very good popcorn.

Now, before the movie started, I knew the kids would have questions about what was going on.  They haven’t studied the French Revolution or read Victor Hugo or any of that stuff, for one thing.  And then there’s, you know, all the death.  Oh, yeah, and the Lovely Ladies.  Hmmm.  I did think about it first.  I tried to remember if there were kids in the theatre when I saw it.  Couldn’t remember.  But then I decided that if they had questions, they’d ask, and I’d answer, and if they didn’t have questions, then it was either way over their heads and too much to take in, or…I forget what the “or” was.  Anyway, I figured we’d just go for it and deal with stuff as it came up.

I did my best, from the start, to explain what was going on at the start of a scene, sometimes talking at the speed of an auctioneer so I could finish before the all-important singing began.  Not an easy task in a production that is 99% sung.  I did my best.

I also kept things a bit upbeat (heh) by letting them know that that guy?  The prisoner right there?  That actor – that’s…”Memphis” from Happy Feet.  AND he’s Wolverine!  Yep!  I know, pretty cool, isn’t it? 

And, later, when we meet the Thenardiers…Okay, now do you recognize her?  Think about it….yes!  Bellatrix!  And him?  He’s……..King Julian!

But that only lasted so long.

Oh, and trying to explain the whole thing about Fantine and why she was paying other people to take care of her daughter and why those other workers were so mean, and, after she was fired, who all those creepy people were and she sold her hair? and then, well, there’s the “come on, Captain, you can wear your shoes/don’t it make a change to have a girl who can’t refuse?” portion…Bill was thinking we might need to fast forward, but it was over quickly and without any shedding of garments, and Alex kind of got it and I believe it went right over Julia’s head.  She was probably still dealing with the hair cut.

And then Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream.” 

I don’t really do well with people who interrupt songs.  I try, because they are my children (Bill has no excuse and will not be forgiven), and I hissed explanations of what she was talking about at them and told them to listen to the story she is telling!  And stop talking during the song!

And with Fantine, of course, we begin the journey of Awesome Characters Who Die. 

I told the kids she was going to die.  I know, I broke my own rule about giving away the story.  But they’re my kids.  And I just wanted them to have a heads’ up, so the deaths wouldn’t…oh, who are we kidding.  I didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time AFTER each death explaining or consoling.  I’m selfish.  I know.  I figured if they knew ahead of time, they could sort of fortify themselves.

They were probably most upset, understandably, about Gavroche. 

But they were okay.

The only person who cried at all was me, during oh, plenty of the songs.  Alex, sweet soul that he is, kept an eye on me and would ask, every time, if I was okay.  No, really, Mom, are you okay?  Yes, Alex.  I know how the whole story goes.  I knew she was going to die. 

Alex said, when I was tucking him in, that it was a good movie.  Not very happy, but good. 

I liked some of the fast conversations we had during the movie…particularly about Javert, and his rigid view of people and right and wrong, and how Valjean completely broke down all his beliefs and he just could not handle it.

Alex said if he had the gun, why didn’t he just shoot himself instead of jumping off the bridge?  I said because he had to sing first.  And jumping is way more dramatic.

So that’s my report.  The kids slept well, no bad dreams.

So I’m thinking of pulling out some old records at some point today…maybe it’s time to learn about Argentina…

One thought on “Family Movie Night: Les Miserables

  1. I fell in love with Les Miserables when we performed a medley of the songs in high school choir. I’ve seen it on stage once and was surprised at how well the songs were performed in the musical version. Who knew Russell Crowe had it in him?!

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