Sunday, December 30, 2012

Les Misérables...A Great Review By Ben Allred

Poster of Les Miserables*

A Great Review

Being involved in a show this December has introduced me to many new friends, friends who love musical theater. And the release of Les Misérables is literally like crack to them...just the thought of the movie coming out on Christmas Day drove them into a tizzy. So it's not surprising that many of my theater friends have written reviews of their thoughts on the film. This is good for me because there's a good chance I won't see the film in the theater. Movies in theaters are something our family really doesn't do (we're Redbox people...).

Some of my friends have written long reviews, some short. But today I came across one that was stellar! I wrote my friend and he gave me permission to share, so here it is. If you know Ben Allred this is from him. Enjoy!

Ben Allred 4 hours ago near Bristol, VT

I had great expectations when we went to see Les Miserables the other night. I had imagined myself being swept up into a cyclone of sound, surrounded by the soundtrack romanticized in my memory for the last 25 years. I anticipated seeing the larger-than-life characters on the big screen and feeling every emotion and nuance of each song. I dreamed a dream of a fully epic multi-sensory cinematic experience.

It was not meant to be.

The surround sound at the little theater we chose was not working, and the teen-ager in charge didn’t have a clue. I would later curse myself for not driving the extra 30 minutes to Burlington to see LayMiz in a proper theater, with a proper sized screen, and a proper amount of freakin’ sound! It was like choosing Motel 6 for the honeymoon.

Did I hear the people singing the song of angry men? Not really. I did hear every cough, sniff, and position shift from every chair. I heard every Junior Mint poured into greedy hands; every loose Skittle hitting the floor, and every slurp of soda. I heard footsteps and conversations outside of the theater, and the soundtrack from the movie next door seemed to be working just fine.

And then there was Popcorn Man. He was sitting (of course) directly behind me, shoveling the popcorn into his mouth hand-over-fist. He ate as if the movie theater were the only place he had access to popcorn, and, not unlike myself, had come with large expectations of theater joy. Every three seconds he would violently thrust his hand into the poor medium size bag, and then, like a medieval catapult, launch it back towards his open mouth, gaping to crush the little crumbs of humble piety - every kernel screaming out “Oh man, show some mercy if you can!”

This heartless popcorn abuse continued without pause for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Was there no bottom to his bag? I tried to focus. Must… Watch… Movie... I struggled, strained, and tuned in for almost a moment - only to realize that Anne Hathaway was about to sing Fantine’s definitive song “I Dreamed a Dream.” My heart skipped a beat. Surely Popcorn Man would stop out of respect for her. NOPE! I guess he figured that since everyone else on screen was treating her so badly, a little popcorn munching was a minor offense.

Fantine began, “There was a time when men where kind”…. MUNCH! CRUNCH! chew chew…. “when their voices were soft”… CRINCKLE CRUNCH SMACK …“and their words inviting”…. MUNCH-SMACK SLOBBER chew chew chew…

Now, I don’t usually tell strangers off. But at that moment, I suppose, the beating of my heart echoed the beating of the drums! I had to say something, if not for myself, at least for everyone else in the theater, and future generations to come. In a single motion I twisted back and pushed out my open palm in front of his face and said “Hey, do you think you can you hold off for a sec?” (Yes, I’m pretty pathetic at give-you-what-for’s) I had stopped the catapult mid-launch, and Popcorn Man looked at me aghast. He was a kind-looking gentleman in his 70’s. With water eyes he quickly dropped his bag and said in a low whimper, “Oh yes,…um,… certainly.”


I spent the next 30 minutes of the movie feeling bad. Did I just tear that man’s hope apart? Maybe he’ll never come to the movies again. Maybe he was homeless, and that bag of popcorn was his only meal for the day or week. Maybe he’s still holding a big glob of popcorn in his mouth and he doesn’t dare chew or swallow for fear of my wrath. Maybe he’ll choke! What have I done, sweet Jesus, what have I done? Had I fallen so far and is the hour so late, that nothing remains but the cry of my hate? Did I not learn anything from that kind Bishop who showed mercy to Jean Valjean? If that Bishop were in my seat, he would have let Popcorn Man finish his bag to the last crumb. And then he would turn and say, “Friend, but you finished in such a hurry! Would you leave the best behind?” as he hands the man his own theater food – probably an extra large popcorn, a large soft drink, and candy from the top shelf – the expensive stuff, you know.

Several times I thought to turn back and apologize. But I felt I it was too late for that. Besides, I was actually starting to enjoy the movie, and I really did not miss his lip-smacking sound!

Then Russell Crow started singing ‘Stars.’

I paused. I cocked my head. I winced…

…then turned quickly back to the man and said, “You can eat your popcorn again, I don’t mind.”

*Movie picture used without permission from:

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