Perhaps you, too, have joined the hordes that filed into “Les Miserables” in recent weeks, watching human tragedy in a theater with stadium seats. The French street urchins are giving those hobbits a run for their box office money — no surprise, since pain has always had a lot of entertainment value. Victor Hugo published the original book in 1862: a 1,200-page epic of love, crime, and punishment, skewered by most critics but devoured by the public. The musical, long and luscious, was a staple of the ’80s.
A film version was inevitable, and it washes over you nicely; the songs, much to my children’s dismay, are impossible to get out of your head. But there’s a quality to this particular movie, this modern spin on an old wallow, that feels a little uncomfortable. At some point, it turns from suffering-as-entertainment into something more obscene: Suffering porn.