Movie Review: Les Miserable

“Those who do not weep, do not see.”
–Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

imagesI wept through much of Les Misérables, and Tom Hopper, Les Mis’s Director, earned every fallen tear. I wasn’t alone. Everyone around me wept, and since it was a sold-out crowd, we were weeping very close to the strangers who surrounded us. It was no matter. We were all in the tragedy together. We all knew there would be pain and death, still hopeful to see what the other side of that coin held, and we felt it deep inside. I am a better person for having seen this movie.

It’s hard to bring a play to the screen, especially a musical. I think some of the great musicals have been ruined by the screen. Annie. Phantom of the Opera. Evita. Such disappointments. Maybe the problem with Evita was Madonna, who could never be Eva Perón, but whatever the reason, it didn’t work. Chicago? Don’t get me started. Les Misérables is better on the screen. The story lends itself to the fluidity of the scene changes, which are less disruptive in a movie. Or it might be that the way it was filmed, having the actors sing their lines on camera rather than in the studio, made it work better. I generally don’t like dialogue in song, and I was worried about it before I saw the movie, but you hardly notice it. And this new method of acting with singing in tandem to acting could be the reason why.

Really, it’s all about Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, which I have been lost in since the movie. Hugo somehow understood that the pendulum swings equally toward bad and good, and he knew how to bring that understanding to life through storytelling. The worse the bad, the greater the capability for good. The so very believable love at first sight between Marius and Cosette cannot be taken in without the hate felt by Javert toward Jean Valjean. Les Misérables has all the sensations of living a truly full, human, flawed life. Love. Weakness. Strength. Hatred. Charity. Faith. Betrayal. But love is the greatest of them all.

“When love has fused and mingled two beings in a sacred and angelic unity, the secret of life has been discovered so far as they are concerned; they are no longer anything more than the two boundaries of the same destiny; they are no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit. Love, soar.”
―Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Can’t wait to talk about the acting.

Anne Hathaway, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing you. Despite the hype, I find you somewhat ridiculous, and it did not occur to me you had it in you. But you do. Your scene singing perhaps one of the greatest songs written for the stage is by far the best one ever done. I am a fan forever. Hugh Jackman, I felt your pain. Your love. Your charity. You embodied every emotion that matters to me, and each time you wore it, you did it from within. Have you recovered yet? You must win the Academy Award for this performance, not just because it was the best I’ve seen this year, but also because it matters. It showed us the potential we carry within ourselves, and a grateful viewer thanks you for this. Amanda Syfried, the innocent Cosette, was predictably poised on the screen, but seemed to struggle a bit with her high notes. Truth is, I don’t much like her. Saw her on Letterman, which I recognize is a ridiculous reference, but she was a twit, and I just can’t say much about her. Russell. Russell. Russell. I want to be kind here—the movie makes me want to do that—but alas, you were not up to the job. I respect you greatly, and my disappointment was less in your performance than in the fact that you should have known this was not your role to play, and you should have left it for someone else. A bunch of us decided Bono could have played the role, and he could have sung it well too. This is the worst of your crimes, Russell. Lastly, your singing talent wasn’t up to the challenge. I contend you knew it all along. Just as you knew Jean Valjean was a better man than you.

But the character who stole my heart was Eponine. Lonely, suffering Eponine, brilliantly portrayed by Samantha Barks, who is new to the screen. I hope to see her again and again. Her minimalist approach to her character made her all the stronger.  Her voice was kind and gentle in its painful message, and I could hear it inside my soul. You were marvelous, and don’t let anyone leave you out of the kudos because you haven’t had box office draw capability. Your time will come.

There are a few small things to iron out. The opening scene with the ship being pulled into port. Not so much. Sorry. The scene in the Inn. Offensively over the top. Out of place a bit. Unnecessary. The two coffins set in front of the barricade. Not so much. The butterflies when Cosette sees Marius in the garden. Don’t be ridiculous. But those are minor offenses in a movie that spans a generation and teaches us everything about life in two and a half hours. There are those who say it was too long. It was not too long. It was the length it needed to be to tell the story at a pace that allowed us to take it in.

“Diamonds are found only in the dark bowels of the earth; truths are found only in the depths of thought. It seemed to him that after descending into those depths after long groping in the blackest of this darkness, he had at last found one of these diamonds, one of these truths, and that he held it in his hand; and it blinded him to look at it. (pg. 231)”
―Victor Hugo , Les Misérables

We were taken to the depths of the dark bowels, and for a few hours we were shown great truths there, and we emerged better for it.

7 comments to Movie Review: Les Miserable

  • Christina Laurie

    Now I’ve GOT to see it. Great review! You covered all the bases.
    Christina

  • Carrie S

    I 100% agree with everything you have written! As a life long Les Miserables junkie, I don’t even like the Broadway version as much as the London version so I was very wary of this movie and I am so, so happy to have worried for nothing. I couldn’t stand Cosette and I only tolerated Crowe because he didn’t totally suck. The Innkeepers were terrible which is tragic because they kind of steal the show in, well, the show. The butterfly distracted me and I thought the death of Javert was a little much (that awful thud!), but oh, Hugh Jackman. What a performance. I was completely taken in by him. And I was also captivated by Ann Hathaway who pleasantly surprised me with her voice. I was spellbound and emotional the whole way through. I can’t wait to see it again.

    PS…what about Eponine’s teeny tiny waist! I mean, I know they were starving but come on. :)

    • Christine

      Thanks for that great addition. SO agree with you about the Innkeepers, but others I know thought Cohen was great. Not for me! As for Eponine’s tiny waist, I don’t recall, but since I might go see it again, will make note.

  • Carrie S

    I do think that Sasha Cohen did a good job with the role he was given. I just don’t agree with the interpretation of the role.

  • Mara Neal

    I am convinced, Chris, this is the film of 2012/2013 season. Finally, i am looking forward to the Oscar’s….

  • Christine

    Carrie, I agree with the Sasha Cohen assessment totally and wish I’d said more about it in my review. They were too ‘made up’ (more for stage than film), and it was so over the top absurd that it didn’t belong. As for as Sasha himself, I can’t get past the way he behaves to take him seriously enough to write about him…

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