1. So I’ve gotten several emails complaining about my lack of sensitivity–or Christian love–in not being being moved by the movie. Here’s the most balanced judgment from a veteran conservative:
[Name of wife here] LOVED Les Miz. She thought it “better than the play,” which she had seen a half dozen times or more on Broadway back in the day, precisely because it prioritized Christian redemption over the political revolutionary theme. She marveled that the film makers could have been so “in sync” with the Christian element. She and the two women she went with were all crying by the end. I suspect the whole thing works better for women.
2. Before you call me sexist, remember that we at FIRST THINGS are all about reminding America of the naturalness of sexual complementarity or sexual difference. I’ve written before, of course, of my admiration at the savvy relational ability of women to use both smiles and tears as weapons–to have much more control than men over what their faces are doing. But I have to add that women probably are more genuinely moved than men by real expressions of personal love, and surely the film meant to be about that. For me: When you talk about its story, it seems a lot better than hearing it sung (with all those silly rhymes to Javert etc.). My wife, for the record, didn’t cry at the film and even thought some of it was somewhat ridiculous, but she did like and appreciate it.
3. In general, I’m capable of being moved by Broadway musicals, but not those in which every word is sung. Another film version much than worse than LES MIZ, for example, is EVITA, which was unrelieved torture. So that must mean, someone might say, that you’re so loutish that you don’t like opera. Well, I like many of the
tunes found in operas, particularly Italian operas. But it’s true I have trouble sitting through whole performances. I was once stuck in a Seattle Opera Company (one of the world’s best) performance of a 5-hour Wagner ring thing. I was, in fact, crying after about the first hour.
4. So as to seem not too much in the thrall of sexual stereotypes, I acknowledge that distinguished Christian emo conservative men such as John Coleman and Michael Gerson have written eloquently about the tears they shed in watching and especially hearing the wonderful story of redemption from miz.
5. I also cry when thinking about the beating the Republican are taking at the hands of the president and his men (and women). The Hagel nomination is pushing all the right buttons–unifying, as I predicted, the lefties at THE NATION with the isolationists at THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE–in support of the ANTI-MCCAIN. The “neocons” (well, of course, not just neocons) are interpreting the nomination as evidence that the president–contrary to what he said during his campaign–doesn’t care about Israel’s future or a nuclear Iran or even a resolute national defense. There is, after all, evidence from Hagel’s mouth that support those concerns. But the McCain perspective is really unpopular now, and so why not trick the Republicans into projecting it once more? Another issue, of course, is there’s little evidence that Hagel could actually RUN the Pentagon (I admit there’s not much McCain could do it either). The drop-off in quality from Gates and Panetta is pretty obvious, from an executive perspective. Meanwhile, the president is projecting his resoluteness in a different way: He says he’s all about issuing unilateral executive orders to protect us from serial killers through weapons control. Another shrewd move–today VP Biden is consulting with gun control advocates, the NRA, and THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY about what neeeds to be done.
UPDATE: Gene Veith, another conservative Christian man, also loved the movie for being so explicitly Christian. But his judgment might be compromised by this claim that the Hugo novel is one of the geatest ever.