Last night I went with the wife to see Les Misérables. I expected little, then was promptly blown away. Immediately became one of the 10 best movies of my lifetime. Just the perfect merging of music, storyline, casting.
As I walked off from the theatre, I experience the familiar feeling that often comes to me after a brilliant film or play. Namely, profound sadness.
I don’t get sad about the movie itself, or about the movie being over, or that I just paid $13 for a ticket. No, what gets me—and this will sound sort of odd—is that the emotional overload I just experienced is pretend. Anne Hathaway isn’t a destitute prostitute fighting for her daughter. She’s an actress who makes millions of dollars, pays $25 for a sushi roll and dodges the National Enquirer. Hugh Jackman isn’t Papa, taking in an unwanted child and raising her under dire circumstances. He’s the guy who dressed up as a wolf superhero.
I know … I know. Duh? Really?
Believe me, I know.
It’s just that, in real life, we don’t have an accompanying soundtrack. When we struggle—poverty, death, anguish—there isn’t a looming sense of nobility and betterment. We’re just poor, and near-death, and anguished. It’s real, harsh, unyielding pain, and behind that pain isn’t the knowledge that, when someone screams CUT! we can retreat to a trailer for a cup of herbal tea and a line of coke.
I long for the magic of cinema to be the magic of real life. But it’s not, and can’t be. Movies are large and grande and, at their absolute best, soul shaking. But only for a few hours. Then, once the credits roll, we get back in our Toyota Highlander, stop off at CVS for Tylenol, pick up the kids from soccer, heat up some frozen lasagna and, if we’re lucky, catch the last 15 minutes of Veep before bed.
I’m pretty sure this is why people have affairs. It’s not love, so much as it’s an energy boost; a sweeping away from day-to-day life; a romantic interlude. Of course, it can’t last—and rarely does. Because, in real life, bills must be paid and appointments must be kept; food tastes awful and, afterward, we poop it out.
In the movies, no one poops.
Not even Fantine.