What’s the perfect antidote to any holiday family gathering? It’s something my siblings and I figured out a long time ago, in our teens: go to the movies. Or it used to be that way. We could either all sit around at home trying to get along, or we could sit silently in a megaplex with a parent, creating the illusion of a happy family, momentarily in peace. Hopefully that peace included a James Bond flick, but this year 007 came out on Thanksgiving so we weren’t left with much. Django Unchained, to my chagrin, wasn’t right for everyone. Same with The Hobbit (sorry Bilbo, you bored me in seventh grade and you still bore me now). There really was only one movie left: Les Miserables, mother ecstatically suggested. Oh dear, slapping on a smile, “Sounds great!” I enthused, for once trying to be a trooper and not a rebel. I was one of few. My brother and husband bagged out. “You realize the translation of Les Miserables is The Miserables.” (They stayed home to watch a B-horror flick in the theater room with some nephews, what had become a cult activity within our holiday crew). My sister was MIA.

Me, mother, sister-in-law, teenage niece+boyfriend headed off to the plush, VIP Theater in San Juan Capistrano where mother had reserved seats. Think of it like flying first class instead of coach, with relatively little fare increase because their margins are all from food and drink. Which was fine with me because we sank into our over-sized, plush leather seats with attached tables and pressed a call button for our waiter, who immediately materialized avec menus.

Sliders, salads, pasta, wine, cocktails, cheese, popcorn, dumplings, whatever you desire, I immediately slid down and stretched my legs as far as they could go and still they didn’t reach the seats in front of me. Now this is how to watch a movie, I said to mother. Especially a three-hour movie, one I had serious trepidations about, fearing that it would be torturous to hear Russell Crowe sing, that I was about to lose all respect for a modern-day actor I respected.

Plus, how many times could one stand to see Anne Hathaway, while getting a buzz cut, belt out that aching verse about how she dreamed a dream of time gone by (pause here and sing it), how her life had all gone wrong, how it used to be so different than the hell she was now living… I must have seen this preview in theaters ten thousand times, including the documentary explaining the Director’s brilliance of having the actors sing LIVE!

When the “Dream” scene finally did play itself out, my niece+boyfriend high-fived as I held back tears, which was about the same time I got a text message: “U miserable yet?” No, I wasn’t miserable. In fact, to my relief the singing didn’t irritate me at all, not one of the actors let me down, and Russell Crowe is still my hero. I did sob at the end. Especially when I saw mother sobbing. Ah, the holidays.