Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miserables (The Movie)

Cosette (as a child)
Mike, Kieran, and I went to see the new "Les Miserables" movie today. Director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") attempted a groundbreaking approach of filming the actors singing on set instead of separately in a recording studio. Consequently, the singing was not as polished or perfect as it might have been otherwise. I agree with film critic Neil Minow, who wrote on Beliefnet, "Having the actors sing their parts while they were the music a welcome organic quality and immediacy."

"Les Mis" is not for everyone...musical theater haters tend to view it as overwrought and melodramatic. I'm not one of those people...I have seen it on stage twice (the last time in 2010, at Jesuit High School) and I like the music. I had big expectations for this film. I would give it four out of five stars...maybe 4-1/2.

The digitally enhanced scenery and sets were suitably dark and depressing. The movie opens with prisoners trying to haul a shipwreck onto a dry dock...and continues in stark imagery. It's just not quite as easy to show Jean Valjean hauling a wounded Marius through the shit in the sewer on the stage, or to see the poor and destitute appealing to the aristocracy. After seeing the show quite a ways from the stage, I liked seeing the actors' emotions close up.

Marius and Eponine
Anne Hathaway did an excellent job as Fantine, and Hugh Jackman also filled the role of Jean Valjean well (although at times I found his vibrato a little annoying). Amanda Seyfried did fine as Cosette, although her singing voice is better suited for the songs of "Mamma Mia." Samantha Barks stood out in her role as Eponine (according to Wikipedia, others considered for the role were Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Lea Michele--oh my!!), and Eddie Redmayne was a romantic, heartfelt Marius. Helena Bonham Carter seems to be typecast recently as a comic villain--she and Sascha Baron Cohen played the roles of the obnoxious and ridiculous innkeepers Thenardiers.

For me, the film had two weak links. Number one was Russell Crowe, who seemed stiff and awkward in his role as Inspector Javert. I've never been a Russell Crowe fan, and I'm not sure why. He just didn't seem to be suited to or comfortable with his role, and as a result his torment was not as convincing as it could have been. The young man who played Javert in the Jesuit High School production had an amazingly deep, beautiful voice, and I felt that he was better suited to the role!

The second weak link was the reduction in the role of Gavroche, mostly because this is Kieran's favorite character in the show. He sang "Little People" for his first audition and named his fish Gavroche after we saw the Jesuit production. So we were sad that they cut most of the song from the movie. Gavroche sings a couple of abbreviated verses, but none of the funny bits. Instead the film focused more on the Thenardiers, who became a bit tiresome after awhile. Beyond those two criticisms, we really enjoyed the movie, and all three of us cried!
As one coworker/friend commented on Facebook after seeing the movie, "Did they sing their conversations back then?"


  1. Interesting. I'm not nearly as familiar with the story and characters as you. Did not enjoy the musical production I saw. But I'll probably go see the movie for Anne Hathaway.

  2. If you didn't like the play, you probably won't like the movie...