We decided to go see Les Misérables, let me clarify, sk decided we would all go see Les Misérables on Christmas Day. Our mourning cousin finally agreed to an activity that required her to leave the house because “once you two leave, I don’t know when I’ll go watch a movie again.” With that enthusiasm, off we went on December 25th, to go watch a movie musical based on a play which was based on a french novel by Victor Hugo of the same name. With just that knowledge, I couldn’t see how anything could go wrong.
I will keep this post strictly focused on the movie so I will bypass the events leading up to the actual movie viewing. Also, if you are a new reader to my blog and are unfamiliar with my scientific methodology for reviewing movies, please feel free to read Inner History Nerd. Otherwise, note Santa did not bring me that watch so once again, my review will be less scientific than usual.
One thing I want to know is how long are previews allowed to last in the US before the movie begins? Does anyone know? Is there a legal time limit? In Canada, the previews are kept to a minimum, I would guess around 15 to 20 minutes, tops. But alas, we were in the States and as I already mentioned, I didn’t have a watch. If I had, I would have checked the time at least twice. So there you have it, the movie hadn’t even started and I wanted to look at the time.
And then the film began. As I said before, Les Misérables, the movie is based on Les Misérables the play, not the original book. I have not read the book so I don’t know how helpful that would have been. However, the basic gist of the movie/play/novel (I’m assuming.) is that a convict, played by Hugh Jackman, is released from jail after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his sister’s child. He breaks his parole and becomes the mayor of a french city. He meets this woman, former employee turned prostitute and played by Anne Hathaway. She dies but he promises to take care of her child, Cosette. All along, he is pursued by the police inspector, Russell Crowe.
From the plays and soundtrack, I never learned the entire storyline. This film finally let me make sense of all the characters and their roles. I never realized, for example, that the Thénardiers, played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, raised Cosette along with their own child, Eponine. Cohen and Carter both shined in their roles as the manipulators/con-artists and provided the comedic relief. I don’t know if these two have ever teamed up together for other roles, but they obviously complemented one another.
Hugh Jackman as Valjean, the convict, gives a very solid performance although sometimes I felt like he was trying too hard. Very similar to how hard I had to work to stay awake. I think the character for me that steals the show is Marius Pontmercy, played by Eddie Redmayne. Marius is a student freedom fighter who falls in love with Cosette. He is the one that kept me awake, more precisely, it was his voice that kept luring my attention back to the screen. He has a very beautiful voice.
One of my main objections to this movie is all the accolades it’s receiving prior to it being released. There’s talk of best film or musical, best actors and best supporting actress awards. Really? I know the actors sang the lyrics live on set but is that reason enough to earn all that award talk? Anne Hathaway’s name comes up for Best Supporting Actress. What? She’s onscreen for 30 minutes or so. During her “poignant” scene, i.e. her only solo performance, “I Dreamed a Dream,” in an entire movie that ran for more than two hours, all I wanted to do was throw her a handkerchief in hope that she would wipe her nose.
Which brings up another issue I have with this movie; all the close-ups. I don’t want to feel the need to wipe the snot from Anne’s face. I don’t want to feel like playing connect the dots with Eddie Redmayne’s freckles. Please, back the camera up so the audience can get a better idea of the scene around the character(s). This may help us understand the movie even more.
This film is truly a musical on screen. There are no speaking parts. A word or two maybe uttered once in a great while but never an entire sentence. Think more along the lines of Jesus Christ Superstar and not Mamma Mia. Both of those musicals were also made into movies but only Mamma Mia included speaking roles. That film had respected actors (Meryl Streep and Pierce Bronson) known for their acting that would break out into song every now and then. Unlike Les Misérables, the well-known actors are now operatic singers and not much else. Sorry, Mr. Crowe, you missed your calling in this role but I will give you kudos for stepping out of your comfort zone.
Did I mention the length of the film? The movie runs for a whopping 2 hours and 38 minutes. How does one sit in those chairs for that amount of time and not have your ass fall asleep? And apparently, according to some, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. All I’m suggesting is that you come prepared; bring the tissues, wear the comfy pants and monitor your food and liquid intake because it will be a while before you can tend to those needs. And correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this movie set in France? Then can anyone explain to me why the only accent I heard was British?
If you are a fan of Les Misérables, the play, I think you will enjoy this movie. The film will offer more detail and clarify finer points that a play may leave for interpretation. I don’t think the average fan of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe or Anne Hathaway will come away overjoyed. Mr. Jackman and Mr. Crowe are the two main characters but how many of their average fans want to watch them, up-close, singing? And anyone attending because of Anne will be asleep within forty minutes because her character dies but fear not, she does get one more appearance at the very end of the film. The supporting cast, all those who portrayed the freedom fighters, Cosette (The young girl and older woman.), Marius, Eponine and Gavroche, a street urchin boy played by Daniel Huttlestone, really do save the day.
Out of 5 stars, I give Les Misérables one and a half. I almost fell asleep several times throughout the second half of the film and if I had a watch on my wrist I’m pretty sure I would’ve lost count or drawn the ire of sk from glancing at my wrist so often. All I wanted to know was when I could stand up from that chair, move around a bit so my ass would come back to life. The one star is for the supporting cast members and the half star is for the clarification the film provides. You know, I like a good musical as much as the next soft butch, however there are some musical plays that should really stay musical plays. This is probably one of them.
- Les Misérables (2012) (canadiancinephile.com)
- Calling All ‘Les Misérables’ Fans: Let’s Get Geeky About Screen vs. Stage (hollywood.com)
- Movie Review: Les Misérables (Connie Wang) (reellifewithjane.com)