Les Miserables and What About Bob?

My family was on vacation last week. On Friday, Raylene and I attended an excellent theatre production of Les Miserables. Then Saturday my family watched one of our favorite movies, What About Bob? I doubt if they’ve been compared before but I couldn’t help but notice the similarities. Both are ultimately about the life-giving power of grace in our lives and the destructive power of law.

In Les Mis, Jean Valjean  is a thief who experiences undeserved favor at the hands of a priest, from whom he had stolen some items. It changes his life completely. He makes a new start and ends up impacting many others throughout his life. His ‘enemy’ is a policeman named Javier who pursues him throughout his life. Javert is absolutely committed to upholding the law. He experiences grace from Valjean but cannot handle it. He kills himself.

In What About Bob?, Bill Murray plays a fear ridden person who seeks help from a psychiatrist, played by Richard Dreyfuss. At the start of the movie, Dreyfuss appears to have it all together. He has an effective practice and a new book that is just published while Murray is a total nut case. But as the movie progresses, we begin to realize that the truly unhealthy one is Dreyfuss. He is proud, self-absorbed, and controlling. Murray on the other hand is completely authentic about his fears and begins to build deep relationships with Dreyfuss’ family; the very thing Dreyfuss longs for but can’t seem to make happen. Like Javert in Les Mis, Dreyfuss is ultimately committed to law: being in control, looking good. It doesn’t work. He misses the life he longs to experience.

I love “What About Bob?” but must admit that every time I watch it, I see some of myself in the psychiatrist. Controlling, self-absorbed, distant from those I love. I long for the authenticity of Bill Murray—an open hearted way of living that deepens my relationships. I can’t make it happen. Only God’s grace can do that in me as it deepens its influence upon me.


  1. Joe C   •  

    Love your transparency here, Alan! Agree totally about the destructive power of law-focused living.

  2. 13letters   •  

    most all of us are self-absorbed. I remember what you did a few years ago.You talked about the race issue in the church.I almost choked,I looked around me an saw the anger and shocked looks on their faces…I wanted to cry knowing that they really dont want to sit by me or even shake my hand because it is a different color.Every church I have been to is this way…so I dont go to church much.But I do miss Gods people..so I try and again its the same.But thanks for saying what you did…I wont forget it.You will hear from me again. keep it straight

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