"A heads-up would have been nice, dear", Eva said to me on the way out of the movie theater.
No kidding. To provide one, however, I would have had to use my own head.
We had just watched the bawlfest known as Les Miserables. She had never been exposed to "the persistent greatness" of the story as the New Yorker terms it (Hugo's novel has been in continuous print since its first publication in 1862 and has been adapted numerous times for various media). I was very curious to see what effect, if any, the movie would have on someone completely unknowing the source material.
God knows the musical devastated me. Thereby hangs a (short) tale.
I saw the Toronto production with my girlfriend at the time--it would have been '91 or '92. We both walked in not knowing what we were in for; I walked out three hours later barely able to see for the tears...along with all the audience. Except Lynne. She had what I swear were the only dry eyes in the house. (You'd think the warning bells would have been tingling a little there, let along jangling loudly a couple of hours later when she questioned her boyfriend's manliness to her entire college dorm, but I was oblivious. I do recall wondering how anybody could remain tearless through that. And I was amazed at the attention that the denigration of my sensitivity granted me from more than a few of Lynne's dorm-mates. Guys: tears are worth girl-points.
"Why do you like that movie," Eva asked me once it was over. "Is it just because it's a musical? Or is it because hundreds of people die in it?"
Our divergent taste in movies has long been a source of comedy in our relationship. Eva likes comedies, big-budget action flicks, and eighties kitsch, the cheesier the better. I'll join her for those big budget blockbusters, so long as they don't derive from comic books, but the type of movies I like most are powerful, emotional dramas. I like to feel my movies, and Les Mis will get you right in the feels.
And yes, there's something about musicals. Tho thue me, thailor. I don't care how limp-wristy this makes me sound, but it's hard not to appreciate a fusion of acting and vocal talent.
And tears are cathartic, we all know that, right? It hurts to cry, but tears are the drainage system for the brain. Every once in a while, it's a good thing to open the dam a little. So I fervently believe, anyway.
Eva, bless her heart, always joins me for my movie indulgences, even ones she has little to no interest in seeing herself. Occasionally she exits the theater having enjoyed something in spite of herself, often she doesn't (ask her some time about "three hours of snow". But today I sensed anger underneath the totally understandable tears...anger I had only realized was just as inevitable as the tears about fifteen minutes before the movie actually ended.
"What kind of reaction did you think I'd have to a movie where the dad dies in the end?" Eva asked me.
God damn it, I just wrote again about her dad's passing today. It hasn't been far from mind since well before it happened, which wasn't very long ago at all. And yet I blithely entered a movie theater imagining all the emotional places--and there are several of them--except the ending, which had completely slipped my mind.
This is not the first time I have made a fool of myself in a movie theater, only the worst time. Our first date was The Matrix, a movie I had previously seen on my own, sensed she would like, and further sensed that she might be able to explain it to me better than I could myself. Our second movie date, however, was a clunker called Instinct. Monkeys die in this movie, a detail I did not know going into it. Nor did I have any idea at the time that my now-wife loves all animals, especially primates. Since we saw that, you'd be surprised how many otherwise wonderful books I have read that were utterly ruined and made unfit for sharing by the death of an animal, often a monkey. Sometimes the monkey isn't even essential to the plot, and so whenever I'm reading and enjoying a novel nowadays, on some level I'm just waiting for the monkey to show up so it can be killed.
Instinct was ignorance. Les Mis was a deeper level of ignorance. I actually feel sick with shame at how much of a dumbass I was today. And a movie I really enjoyed and would heartily recommend will now forever be linked in my mind with my own insensitivity.