Why I am not taking my child to see Les Miserables

Why I am not taking my child to see Les Miserables

My daughter's teacher told her fifth grade students today that they should see the movie Les Miserables. The teacher said it is a good history lesson, but I’m wondering if she was influenced by the movie’s good performance at the Golden Globe Awards last night.  I have seen Les Mis, but I’m not planning to take my tween, and here’s why.

  1. The movie is rated PG-13 and not entirely appropriate for my daughter. While not all PG-13 movies are bad, I trust that the Motion Picture Association of America had its reasons for thinking some material in the film may not be suitable for my kid, who is younger than 13. Specifically, it identified the reasons for the PG-13 rating as “sexual content and violence.” I’m not big on my kid watching either of those. I’ve also found Common Sense Media’s reviews to be helpful, and it pinpoints age 14 as a good age for viewing Les Mis. The reviewer was a big fan of the film and the myriad of discussion topics it provides, but notes “[t]he film deals with abject poverty, prostitution, imprisonment, corruption, war, and death.”  I haven’t discussed prostitution at length with my child, and I’m fine waiting a bit for her to know the details revealed in Anne Hathaway's portrayal of the suffering Fantine.
  2. It's long. She’d be watching for a long time. I saw Les Mis, and it’s the full 157 minutes tickets holders are promised. My 10 year-old has the attention span of, well, a 10 year-old. A movie with a run time longer than 2 1/2 hours is pushing it.  A good friend who is a big musical theater fan even said that she would have appreciated an intermission in the middle of the film.
  3. It’s complicated. There are a lot of interconnected parts of Victor Hugo’s tale, and it can be hard for adults to follow. I think it would be tricky for a young tween to understand without help. When I saw the film, the woman sitting directly behind me explained each and every scene to her tween and it drove me a little crazy. Okay, more than a little. And I’d like to think my tolerance for that is a little higher than most. The running commentary required for my tween to understand it wouldn’t fair to my fellow theater goers. You can thank me later, or buy me popcorn next time you see me at the theater.

Different families make different decisions regarding movies.  Many of my daughter’s classmates saw the Hunger Games and my child said she’d rather not see a violent movie. It makes me think that she would have a hard time with the violence in Les Mis.

I think this is a good illustration of how there’s a big difference in maturity between a 10 year-old 5th grader and a 12 year-old 7th grader. In a few years, I think she could handle it. But not now.

Our compromise: watching performances of the songs from the anniversary concerts, and we’ve marveled together at Anne Hathaway’s version of "I Dreamed A Dream" that we watched on the computer. The music is amazing, and we don’t at all miss the new song, “Suddenly,” that was added for the film.  Watching this way means I can give my tween the thumbnail sketch of the plot without the gory or graphic details. I must admit to missing seeing Hugh Jackman, but awards show season is tiding me over pretty nicely.

For a different take, check out this article on Slate, "Kids will never stop loving Les Misérables."

Have you taken your child(ren) to see Les Miserables? Or are you sitting this one out? What did you think of the film?

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