Yesterday Greg and I had the opportunity to go to the theater in our town and see “Les Miserables”. I was really looking forward to it – because years ago we saw the stage production at 5th Avenue in Seattle. I remember the music being breathtaking if not haunting in its beauty. The story itself is all about forgiveness and redemption – one of my favorite topics. My favorite part in both the live version and on the silver screen is the scene where the priest who takes in the fugitive, Jean Valjean (played brilliantly by Hugh Jackman) – forgives and helps when Jean is caught stealing his valuables. When the police bring him to the priest – the priest simply says, “my friend, you forgot the most valuable candlesticks here on the table” It is very moving. And when the young woman played by Anne Hathaway who through a series of very unfortunate and I can’t help but think, very avoidable circumstances finds herself on the street in dire poverty, cold and illness – sings “I dreamed a dream” – I lost it. Her performance will win many awards, I’m sure.
But after this point it became apparent to me that I would have to see this movie again some other time – in the privacy of my own home. You see we were sitting a few seats away from some teenage girls. The movie was long – they were bored and began giggling, laughing, checking their phones ( a real NO-NO in a movie theater) and when I could not take it any more the girl 2 seats to my right pulled out a noisy bag of CHIPS and began crunching them one by one – each time putting her hand in and out of the bag causing it to snap and crackle every few seconds. To say it was distracting and disrespectful would be an understatement. I could have made a stink about it – could have really caused a fuss and made it very awkward for the remainder of the movie – but I chose instead to practice patience and silence.
My silence comes in part to a terrible experience of “shaming” that someone gave me years ago when I was checking an email in an auditorium before a show actually started. I don’t remember the circumstances except that it was not during any performance but clearly in a place that should not have bothered anyone. But instead of being treated with grace and tolerance – I was severely reprimanded by a very unkind lady behind me. I can’t remember exactly what she said – but remember how it made me feel. I felt like a scolded 12-year-old girl. I remember hearing this saying from years before: “It is better to discipline yourself to do the right thing than have someone else discipline you” (or shame you) – and I set out to always be conscious of doing and saying the right things as to not offend. It is no fun to have someone tell you that cell phones aren’t allowed!!
So you can understand my hesitation in “shaming” the young ladies next to me. Now I know many of you reading this would have said or done something. And that’s okay. But most of the time it does not win a friend or go well for either party – and can cause serious division and hurt feelings. Silence, forgiveness and much grace is needed for some people in this life as demonstrated so eloquently by our leading man in the movie we were watching. And I will admit to you – I was angry. Movie tickets are not cheap – and we were really looking forward to this. And we expect common courtesy and find that it’s not very common at all. I had to fight my emotions most of the way through the long movie – and almost lost it a few times. It took everything I had within me not to at least SHUSH them with a BIG “SHHHHHHH”. But then I thought, “wouldn’t that be the same as what that lady long ago had done to me? How did that make me feel? Do I really want to be one of those? But don’t you and I have our RIGHTS? ” Yes. But that doesn’t make it right. Perhaps you are one that keeps order and makes sure that everyone is in “check” – but just make sure that as you feel compelled to do so – that you aren’t wounding someone with your words and actions. Is your comfort really more important than someone’s feelings? Is it worth it to burn that bridge? How awkward would you feel to come across that person in the lobby or restroom after the movie – especially if you had just LET THEM HAVE IT!! I thought about my silence when I went to the rest room afterwards. I actually did run into one of the young ladies. She looked at me shyly and smiled. And I remembered that as the movie ended one of the girls said rather loudly, “that made me cry”. I was angry at the time and wondered how she could have been still long enough to get the full impact of emotion – but you never know about some people. We are all different. We all process things at different rates. And just because she was chatty and noisy – doesn’t mean that she didn’t gain something beautiful from the film. And I hope she did. Perhaps she will learn to be more tolerant because I didn’t spoil the movie for her by “shaming” her into being quiet – and rising up to my standards.
It seems to be an epidemic at movie theaters – especially taking out cell phones and checking them during a movie. I don’t think I’ve gone to one movie in the last 5 years that I didn’t have to see someone do this at least once. A few years back we bought tickets to go see a Christmas concert of Michael W. Smith here in Seattle. Same issue. People just couldn’t leave their phones alone. And then there was a fussy little girl behind me that had to have snacks. Very NOISY snacks – especially during the quiet moments. Not fun. Finally Greg turned around and got the attention of the Mom who didn’t seem to be paying attention to the noise – or was just used to it – and it helped but did not entirely stop. It’s hard to believe.
I’m finding that I enjoy movies much more in my own home and from now on will REALLY have to love the movie in order to go to the theater. This is my “un” review – since it had way more to do with people watching the movie, rather than the actual movie!
Happy movie going – I hope all the people sitting around you LEAVE THEIR CELL PHONES AT HOME.
- Les Miserables – Movie Review (javaj240.wordpress.com)
- Les Miserables Review (shiitakemushrooms.wordpress.com)
- Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone When You Go to the Movies (geardiary.com)
- Dear Movie Theater, (deardbag.com)
- ArtsBeat: Theater Talkback: ‘Les Misérables,’ Stage to Screen (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)