By John E. McIntyre
The Baltimore Sun
5:00 PM EST, January 5, 2013
An ambitious bookworm in my youth, I once started Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. It was on a recommended-reading list. I ground to a halt a few pages in and discarded the recommended-reading list. I have never seen the musical and have never consciously listened to any of the tunes. And now, as you are already surmising, I intend to give the movie a miss.
I've had a warning from TheMattWalshBlog: " I cried tears of blissful joy when Russell Crowe threw himself off a bridge at the end because it meant he’d finally stop singing. BUT EVEN THAT DIDN’T STOP HIM."
At The New Yorker, David Denby leads with a messages of hope: "I want to render a public service. I want to suggest that even if you were deeply moved by “Les Mis,” you can still save your soul. I don’t think you are damned forever." (But the means? Prayer? Fasting? Talk therapy? Pharmaceuticals?)
And I have read in reviews about the close-ups on the actors' faces during the songs. I don't want to see up close all the straining and grimacing that accompanies vocalizing. Anne Hathaway is a nice-enough-looking young woman, but I have no interest in seeing her uvula.*
I haven't made these judgments on the basis of a few hostile reviews; I have also registered several people's raptures on Facebook and elsewhere. It appears that the film enjoys the most favorable reception among women who like to weep in public and gay men overly enthusiastic about musical theater and overwrought spectacle.
Every few years we get one of these things. Titanic. Love Story. A film that critics disparage and the public loves, especially if it's an occasion for multiple sodden handkerchiefs.
And that's as it should be. Critics are engaged to evaluate according to their tastes and standards, and the public is entitled to like what it likes. Those of you who don't go in for that sort of thing have fair warning. Those of you who do go in for that sort of thing should enjoy yourselves without getting your backs up over your implied want of taste.
*Oh grow up.
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