I’m counting the days; as I write this the number is 28. The magic number would be 27, but I can’t see myself going to the movies on Christmas Day, so the big event will have to wait until the day after.
That’s when the film “Les Miserables” opens in theaters. Victor Hugo’s story of redemption has been filmed many times, but this is the first time the musical made famous on Broadway will come to the big screen. And I can’t wait.
It’s got Anne Hathaway as Fantine, and judging from the trailer, she dies of consumption better than any actor yet. On Broadway, Fantine’s always played by the prettiest, most rosy-cheeked actress around, and when she comes to the edge of the stage to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” (the song made famous by Susan Boyle on “The X Factor”), the Broadway Fantine always belts the tune with such gusto you forget that the character is at the wretched bottom of her life. I guess any girl who knows she will be dead soon, and yet has the gumption to put on some blush and false eyelashes (along with the dirty smudges on her cheeks), deserves the best song in the show.
Anne Hathaway starved herself for the film role, and what you get is something closer to the sad truth. Fantine is, after all, a prostitute dying of tuberculosis and God knows what else. She’s sold her hair to buy food. She’s worried what will become of her little daughter. Fantine is wrecked.
They ran the trailer before another movie I saw last weekend. It showed about 5 seconds of Fantine singing her lament – barely enough to get a look at Hathaway in character – but it was enough to start me crying. By the time the words “Coming Christmas Day” appeared on screen, I was sobbing. My friend leaned over and said, “What the hell’s the matter with you? It’s the commercial.”
“Les Mis” is my favorite show. When we first moved to Connecticut about 15 years ago, I saw it frequently on Broadway. And the earth shook every time. When family and friends came to visit, we got tickets. Sometimes I’d catch my companion checking her watch, but not me, no sir. By the end, my purse and pockets would be stuffed with wadded up Kleenex, and I’d been wondering a little about what kind of person does not love this show.
I couldn’t wait for my daughter to see it, and when she was 10, I took her and her best friend to a small theater production. The whole show, Grace whispered questions about the (somewhat complex) plot: Whose little girl is that? Who just died? Why are they chasing him? And which little girl is that again?
Hard to believe, but there are people who have never seen the show. I envy the experience that awaits them; that moment when, in the dark of the theater, a character comes downstage to sing, and that space in between is filled with such big feeling, and you are projecting the face of your daughter or your sister onto that actor’s shoulders, and you are right up there with her.
Consider this my review of the film, perhaps the first ever written before the reviewer even saw the movie. Maybe come Christmas Day, the critics won’t like “Les Mis” so much. But I’m telling you right now, it will be awesome and heartbreaking. A gray, broken Fantine will sing her song. Seeing that is all I want for Christmas, for someone to take me to the movie and cry as hard as I do.