A Joint Jaunt Through "Les Mis"


Only Slightly Miserables


My bearded manfriend agreed to see "Les Miserables" with me on Christmas Day, first and foremost because it's been our tradition, three years in a row now, to see a movie on the bebe Jesus's birthday, second because my birthday is coming up and third - because he knew it would make me happy. I think in the months leading up to the release you could graph our reactions as such: the higher on the joyful scale my enthusiasm rose the deeper his dropped. My manfriend is not into musicals, but he was a real trooper about it all.

So I'd just like to say a special thank-you to Bryce for sitting through three hours of warbling with me.

I emerged from the theater with many feelings. 

Wait. Let me back up. I've been listening to Broadway musicals since I was six or seven years old, starting with "The Phantom of the Opera." I remember one Sunday when I was perhaps eight or nine, coming home from the mall with my parents, listening to something "Not Phantom of the Opera."My dad said, "Hey, you have to hear this song. Listen to the lyrics." And he and my mom chortled.

Was it the rousing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" The heartfelt "In My Life?" Perhaps the tender "Bring Him Home?" 

No, it was "Master of the House," and my dad cranked it up so we could all hear what the Thenardiers stuff their sausages with.

I was hooked from that moment on. It was love. I love my musicals and by God, do I love my "Les Miserables." I saw it in Toronto with my parents and I saw it with COLM FUCKING WILKINSON (who originated the part of Jean Valjean in London). I am very lofty about this. When anyone in my high school did a "Les Miserables" song in our annual Broadway Dinner, I was sure to be extra-critical and bitchy about their performance. I have avidly watched those PBS specials with the dusty old cast from the 10th Anniversary concert and the sexy new cast from the 25th. When I heard Taylor Swift might be cast as Cosette, I grimaced. Star power over lung power? Please, no. Not my "Les Miserables."

So it was with curiosity more than anything that I went into the movie last night, though I was determined to love it the way a parent loves their ugly-ass kid. It might be terrible, but that essential early-bonding stage was strong enough to overcome any failing. I imagined, I was convinced I would love it the way I love anything that features Keira Knightley in a tightly-laced corset, no matter how bad everything else might be.

Surprisingly, I was wrong.

The high points for me:

Anne Hathaway. Anne...I didn't know. I didn't REALIZE. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I've been love/hate with you. I'm sorry I cringe every time I see your strange girl-woman face. You'll always be Mia Thermopolis to me in some ways. In other ways, you will always be the woman who fucking smashed it out of the goddamn ball park when she made me cry - nay, weep - during "I Dreamed a Dream." You are an actress without equal. You are this generation's Audrey Hepburn, except YOU CAN SING YOUR OWN PART (sorry, Audrey, but I heard those clips of you singing the songs from "My Fair Lady"...eeesh...thank God they dubbed you). Anne Hathaway was amazing. Uh-Mah-Zing.

Amanda Seyfried. I had read a poor review of her singing, but I liked it. Yes, she trilled and vibratto'ed her way through the part of Cosette, but her hitting that crazy-ass high note during "A Heart Full of Love" won all my admiration. She really has a sweet voice, which I've enjoyed since "Thank You For the Music" from "Mamma Mia," and she's actually the first person I've heard sing the part who doesn't sound like they're screeching the high notes.

Eddie Redmayne. Such a good Marius. Such a great voice.

Aaron Tveit. Enjolras is actually a pretty plum part, and Ramin Karimloo, who played the part in the 25th Anniversary concert, would be a tough act to follow. I am so happy that they didn't cast a pretty, famous face with a so-so voice for this role, because it's vocally very demanding. Aaron Tveit did an exemplary job. Bravo!

Helena Bonham Carter and Borat. Faaaaabulous. I didn't know she could sing! I loved how he faked a French accent because they are in France! Ah!

Set Design and Costumes. Even if things looked a little obviously CGI'd at times (apparently all the budget went toward securing Russell Crowe?), on the whole the set design and costumes were breathtaking and deeply satisfying. 

Samantha Banks' waist. It was TINY. Like Scarlett O' Hara at the beginning of "Gone with the Wind bragging about her 18.5 inch waist tiny.

Tri-Color! I love you, France. Shine on, you crazy Gauls.


And some lows:

Russell Crowe.

I can't.

I...

Urgh. 

Why. WHY. WHYYYYYY.


Hugh Jackman. I know. The Lead. Monsieur Jean Valjean himself. Did not like. I felt his voice lacked strength, depth and power. Though I would take him over many others, it was not, for me, ideal.

Also, during the "Heart Full of Love" reprise at the end, Jackman interjects with a reedy, "She was never mine to lose..." and Bryce and the random stranger sitting on the other side of me both found it hilarious and started giggling. I just laughed because they were laughing and I didn't want to be left out.

Disbelief can only be suspended so far. You expect me to believe that someone suffering from a gunshot wound, who is then dragged through sewers composed of shit that looks like runny coffee grounds, would not die a terrible, painful death? Come on. I'm no doctor, but my instinct tells me that getting other people's shit in a bloody hole that's been punched through your body would probably result in something like 920103090923 million bacterial infections. And early 19th century medicine would probably prescribe bleeding you. (Bryce's reaction: Oh no! He's getting poo in his wound!)

Javert's jumpy storyline at the end. YOU, MAN, WHOM I HAVE HUNTED THROUGH THE YEARS! I WILL SHOOT YOU! (oh wait, no I won't.) HE'S GONE! I DIDN'T SHOOT HIM! WHAT HAVE I DONE? I AM SO CONFLICTED. HE LET ME GO FREE! WE'RE EVEN NOW, AREN'T WE? ISN'T THAT HOW IT WORKS? NO? OH BY THE GOD IN HEAVEN IN WHOM I PLACED MY DEVOUT FAITH, NOW I SHALL STICK IT TO YOU AND COMMIT THE EGREGIOUS SIN OF SUICIDE. It all makes seeeeeeeense - SPLASH. CRUNCH!

?

I mean, that's basically how it happens in the musical, but in the movie it just felt so very...sudden. Like, no, Javert! Stop! You're being hasty! Let's talk this out - I know a great therapist, let me get you his number!

pissed!
And that's just part of one of my biggest complaints. What worked on the stage, where the set piece was set on an enormous lazy Susan that spun around for different scenes, did not work on-screen. What a jumpy mess (much like Javert's suicide, bazinga). And I surely don't understand how something that moved so quickly through plot points could also feel so very long. Hm.

In toto, I enjoyed my foray into the sung film version of "Les Miserables," but I am sad to realize that I don't, I simply can't love it just for being "Les Miz."

Rating: 6/10 crotch grabs from Helena Bonham Carter

My Turn

Unlike Cara, my bearded manfriend, I had NO prior knowledge of "Les Mis" except that it all happened to take place during one of the most miserable periods of human existence a.k.a. "The French Revolution." I asked my mom after we saw it (SEVERAL STRETCHING HOURS) and were in the snowy parking lot.

"Besides the American Revolution, when has there been a good revolution?"

She had no answer for me, but don't you get me started on those Russians. I've seen "Doctor Zhivago" several times!

Also, I knew Anne Hathaway cut her hair and starved herself for this role. Gosh, Annie, the things you will do for an Oscar!

I thought this movie was wonderful but again I have nothing to base that off except my gut. 

Russell Crowe was all right to me, but between him and Hugh Jackman, why so many Australians for a film so obviously about France?

I love him. I'm not exactly sure WHY.
Also: I discovered my love of Hugh Jackman in this film. He's so versatile and seems to come off as a genuinely nice guy. Did he do a good job as Valjean? I believe so. I know Cara said he was not ideal, but he DEVOTED himself to this role. And you could tell. He seemed to radiate the godly ideals which guide the reformed Valjean. For that, he has my respect.

I was a little irritated by the length of "Les Mis." At times, it just dragged

and dragged

AND DRAGGED.

My dad had come with us- this was my Christmas gift to my mother who loves her period pieces- and at the end, nearing 6 p.m., we could all hear him audibly mumble "NO MORE SINGING PLEASE GOD."

To me, for such an ambitious Hollywood adaptation of a much beloved musical, the cast was spot-on. That little girl who played the young Cosette? Holy SHIT. She's like the drawing on the original poster come to life! That is so weird. Where did they find her?

Now you may expect a film with "miserable" in the title to be uber-depressing. And it was.

what is she looking at? a penis?
Poor Anne Hathaway is reduced to prostitution to support her daughter, the little Cosette. Anne has her hair cut ($$$) and teeth pulled ($$$$$). Then some army guy literally just comes inside her and that's that. I wasn't aware sex acts with hookers were so barbaric! Not even foreplay. Again: poor Anne. She dies of TB and comes back as an angel at the conclusion (spoiler'd).

Oscar Chances For Anne? Anne, Marion, Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook." Calling it now.

Amanda Seyfried thus gets overshadowed. But she herself does a lovely job with what she is given. "A Heart Full of Love," while no "I Dreamed a Dream," blows the audience away. Plus, I can't help but love anything Amanda does. She's like a ray of sunshine taken human shape.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Samantha Banks as Ebonine were amazing as well. Samantha Banks- I kept watching her to figure out where I'd seen her before. I went home and Wikipedia'd her but I guess I have never seen her before. :/ 

And- YES this movie is ultra-depressing, but Helena Bonham Carter and Borat significantly lighten things up whenever they appear on the screen. Weren't they in "Sweeney Todd" together? They make a good pair, but it's weird to see Helena minus Johnny Depp.

I guess I'd call "Les Mis" one of the best movies of the year, but I'm judging from a small pool. It's definitely one of the better movie musicals of recent memory. Susan Boyle should have been in it, though.


(I have to go see this again with my gf....so perhaps I will have a different view the next time! At least I know when it ends now. Sometimes, it's hard to tell. "Wait...no.")

p.s. CK cried through the whole thing. lolz

Comments

  1. I FORGOT TO MENTION THE ORCHESTRA

    Oh god, the orchestrations were sublime!

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  2. p.s. I am pretty sure it is Samantha BaRks (with an "r" - as in, what I want to do when I see her fine urchin ass, yowza!)

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  3. Love your reviews. Anne Hathaway was indeed amaaaazing. And Jackman and Crowe were vocally disappointing in their roles. Marius was unusually adorable and compelling. I was irritated by all the busy swoopy camerawork during "Stars" among other scenes. Would have liked more intimacy, as with "I Dreamed a Dream". One nit to pick with your review -- the bulk of the film/story takes place 30-40 years after the French Revolution.

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    Replies
    1. thank you for reading! and sorry about our mistake. I guess we should have said after the Revolution.

      merci!

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    2. I guess it's known as the July Uprising or something like that? I used to think it was set during the French Revolution, and then I realized no one was mentioning Louix XVI, Marie Antoinette or the Reign of Terror. I do like how the movie cleared that up at the beginning by saying we're post-revolution but there's another king on the throne.

      I LOVE THAT SOMEONE AGREES WITH ME ABOUT HUGH JACKMAN! I didn't think many would. I have to agree with Britt, though, that he really gives it his everything. But sometimes, Hugh Jackman, your everything isn't good enough for biased no-talent nobodies in Erie, PA. Take that.

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  4. trouper.

    I want to see this.

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