This post is going to be a little off topic in that it’s not about liver transplants, or the slow unraveling of my rational self into a blubbering, anxiety-riddled mess, but I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence. It is (somewhat) relevant because I got to share a favorite something of mine with Ana and Emily way before I ever expected to – the newly released film Les Miserables.
I’ve been in love with Les Miserables since my 11th grade humanities teacher took us to see it on Broadway. My best friend may have actually introduced me to it even earlier than that – my memory is fuzzy. She was the smartest 17 year old I’ve ever known. She knew the musical score to Les Miserables by the age of 10. I’m sure of it. Anyway, she’s the one who told me to listen – really listen – to the songs and the story. So I did and I fell in love with everything about it.
Les Miserables is the kind of thing that changes with time, the way you change. I first saw it when I was 18 and so I totally identified with Eponine – beautiful, tragic, doomed to love someone who never loves her back (and die for that shortcoming). Oh how I loved Eponine. I’ve sung her song, “On My Own,” a zillion times – off key of course – since the first day I heard it back in Humanities class. I saw the play again with that same brilliant friend when we were both in our twenties. That time I sobbed like a baby. I still identified with Eponine. I was childless, young, definitely wiser (but not as wise as I thought). But I knew more about loss and disappointment, and other parts of the story spoke to me more strongly by then.
I never imagined that there would be a movie that was EXACTLY like the play. The actors literally sing nearly every single line. All of the songs I know so well – all of the scenes – are done exactly as they were on Broadway. As such, I forgive the movie’s shortcomings because now I get to see it whenever I want. WHENEVER I WANT! It was worth listening to Russell Crowe sing just to see all of the characters again! Valjean, Fontine, Eponine – the deplorably wonderful innkeeper and his wife! Even Javert! I’ve seen it twice – both times with people that had never seen the play, the second time with Ana and Emily (I didn’t really want to bring Emily – I knew she’d be bored…and she was). BUT STILL! This time I completely identified with Fontine – the mother who would do anything to save her child. Oh my god – it was written for me.
I didn’t cry though. I know the story too well. Well, I cried twice. Briefly. Once when Fontine sold her hair because I really think that they filmed her hair actually being hacked off and that was just too close to home. The other time was when Marius was sitting alone singing about all his fallen friends who had died in the French Revolution. And it’s just so dead on, that song. It is the embodiment of loss and the futility of war. The actor who payed Marius (Eddie Redmayne) nailed it. I mean, he NAILED it. The feeling of hopelessness – the sudden realization that there is more sorrow in this world than one person can bear. He went from young to old in that moment.
And Ana genuinely liked it! She loved Cosette, of course. I naturally see her in that role – young Cosette, sweeping the inkeeper’s floors with dirty feet, singing “Castle on a Cloud” like a little songbird. Ana is already aging out of that role and morphing into Eponine in my mind. I hope she watches the movie again in eight years, and eight years after that. I hope we’re watching it together. I hope she sings in it on Broadway someday.
Go see it. Be kind – remember it’s an old tale, overly dramatic, full of music that’s from another time. But listen closely to the words – just like my good friend Mary told me all those years ago. It’s so full of poetry.