"Dad, those were the worst two hours of my life"

Thus announced my nine-year-old son as I took him to the restroom two hours into our family’s viewing of Les Misérables, the brilliant, new film from director Tom Hooper.

His thirteen-year-old brother agreed with him: “Definitely the worst movie I have ever seen.”

Apparently, art is wasted on the young. At least, it is wasted on my boys, who still care far more about baseball than they do the power of love to do good in the world – the movie’s theme, at least as I deduce it.

Fortunately, my wife was as enthralled as I with the movie, and just as moved to tears at several points throughout the epic. As I watched, and cried, I was so thankful that the world gives us people with the talent, creativity, and ambition to produce a work of art such as Les Mis. I wished I were a tenth as talented as the actors I saw on the screen or the director, writers, producers, and others who gave me the joy of seeing their work.

I was relieved that though my children hated the film, something about it – or perhaps my reaction to it – made them wonder. “Dad?” asked the youngest on the drive home. “What would you say was the moral of the movie?”

This gave their mother and me a chance to review the plot with them and then to discuss the theme – not just the power of love, but also of mercy, as she correctly noted.

I marveled at the ability of the actors to perform as movingly as they did while singing the dialogue. This would be hard enough on stage, but on film projected on a massive screen, with every centimeter of their faces magnified many times over? Phenomenal. Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine was breathtaking throughout, but her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” is probably the best performance in a film I’ve seen.

It is impossible to see the movie without relating the plight of its peasants, prisoners, and revolutionaries to our present day United States, where a politically-powerful, sociopathic aristocracy, aided by well-meaning dupes in uniforms, dominates and increasingly impoverishes the great mass of the people; and, where the great mass of the people cannot be moved to resist their own enslavement, and thus leave the few with the courage to stand up against tyranny to fight on their own.

Who can see this film and not see in the Occupy Wall Street movement at least a nascent version of the “children of the barricades?” Will we, too, abandon our own children to the overwhelming power of an illegitimate state?

That, I suppose, remains to be seen, but the signs thus far are less than encouraging.

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