I have never been a fan of musicals. It’s the one genre in the realm of film that has more chance of disappointing me than not. Thus, when almost everyone in my group seemed entranced when we were watching Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Miserables (2012), I was quietly squirming in my seat wondering when the travesty will end.
It is not the musical’s fault. For all intents and purposes, Les Miserables is a competent film. It has good performances and convincing set-pieces. The problem that I have with it (and with musicals in general) is the singing. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to suspend my disbelief whenever a character on the screen begins singing as a form of exposition.
However, there are certain musicals that do grab my attention, musicals that I even love watching. Two crooks trying to create a musical about Hitler? Sold! A barber who murders his clients then makes them into pies? Show me where the line is! It seems that the one requirement I have for musicals is an element of the ridiculous, a sign that it doesn’t (and won’t) take itself too seriously. That’s the primary reason why I couldn’t make myself like Les Miserables when I watched it on the big screen as it is hard for me to take a movie about the French Revolution seriously when the actors and actresses are singing their feelings out. On the other hand, a gay theater director singing about Hitler operates on another level of reality and is so unbelievably ridiculous that I have no problems watching it again and again.
Which is why Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is my favorite musical in the history of movies. The premise: A couple, Brad and Janet (played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon respectively) suffers from a flat tire on their way to a friend’s house. They seek shelter in the castle of Dr. Frank N Furter (played magnificently by Tim Curry) and then hijinks ensue. It’s really a simple plot and, taken at face value, it may seem derivative of many B-Movies that came before it but there is brilliance in keeping the plot simple as it allows the movie to go all-out during the musical numbers that the movie is known for and, really, the musical numbers is what makes the movie such a riot of good fun.
And how fun really is The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Well, it just celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary, a milestone that I celebrated by buying the 40th Anniversary Edition of the movie, and, with 40 years in limited release since 1975, it is currently the longest running theatrical run of any movie in the history of film as it is a mainstay in midnight showing at theaters all across the United States. No other film has such an appeal and a devoted fan base that span across decades.
I first discovered the movie after watching an episode of Glee that featured the songs from the movie and I was intrigued. The songs had character that almost seduced me aurally and made me search for the source online which led me to the movie. Two hours later, I was a convert. Ever since then, I re-watched the movie a thousand times especially during times of sadness. I have memorized the lyrics to “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, and “Hot Patootie” and they have been some of my go-to songs whenever I feel down or whenever I’m in the shower. I am a proud disciple of Dr. Frank N Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Brad, Janet, and the various hooligans that populate their universe.
Well, now I’ve done it. I started out with the intention of writing a review but ended up writing an appreciation. I will never be capable of writing an objective review of the movie as I love it too much. However, let me just say this: the movie is flawed, yes, but it is infinitely charming and definitely one of cinema’s rare gems, a movie that can transcend it flaws and elevate itself into something more than itself. It has become a beacon to many people and it certainly is a beacon to me.