Saturday, December 29, 2012

Les Miserables - A Honest Review

I'm back from watching Les Miserables with the wife. My background with the Les Mis phenomenon is I saw the stage production many years ago and loved it. I also liked the movie with Liam Neeson. Suffice it to say, I'm a fan of Les Mis and of musical theater in general. So what did I think of the movie.

I loved the movie and being a fan certainly helped. At the same time, this movie will do nothing to convince your other jaded friends who hate watching musicals on film.

Let me address the bad before I address the good. Here are the common complaints of movie musicals.

1. People just break out into song. Yes, that's the whole movie. People singing everything they feel and every last piece of dialogue. There's a seen when Hugh Jackman is trying to escape and he quietly approaches an ally in an open courtyard. He then proceeds to sing his distress in his loud tenor voice.

2. Producers would rather have A-List Hollywood stars that can kind of sing, instead of actual actors who can actually sing. Case in point, Russell Crowe can't sing. He's the weak link in the movie.

3. Schmaltz galore. "Schmaltz" literally means "rendered chicken fat." Basically a series of overdone and over produced love songs and emotional vomiting.

If you have friends who had movie musicals, it would be pointless to tell them, "But then, you've never seen Les Miz!" You'll lose the argument and become a laughing stock to your friends.

To me this movie, represents every complaint man has ever laid against movie musicals all rolled up into one movie. The saving grace for this movie is:

  • An amazing story of forgiveness and redemption.
  • Incredible music and lyrics, which made the broadway play the best ever.
  • Fantastic performances, especially an Oscar-Winning performance from Anne Hathaway and yes, Hugh Jackman.
  • Faithful adaptation of the original musical.
Despite the fact that this is a Hollywood Movie Musical, the story, music and performances make it one of the best movies of 2012.

On top of that, I love the fact that this British movie featured an entirely American and Australian cast. Take that England!

Yes, Anne Hathaway delivered an emotional performance as Fantine. She packed a lot of punch in her 20 minutes of screen time in this 2 1/2 hour movie. I cried during her song.

Hugh Jackman was made for the role of Jean Valjean. His voice is good even when he could not quite reach the higher register.

I don't know who Samantha Barks is but she is super hot as Eponine. Pretty face, muscular arms and a four inch waist.

Look, I walked away from the movie glad that I could revisit the performances from the stage play, but it just does not translate from stage to film. You really have to see it live. The main reason this didn't work was there's a suspension of disbelief that works on the stage, but in a movie when the transition of events move too quickly, it makes you question what happened. For example...


At the end of the movie, Jean Valjean gets in a carriage to leave Cosette and Marius. The carriage leaves and cuts to the wedding, which immediately cuts to the church where, Jean Valjean is sitting alone in a chair about to die. This all takes place in duration of 15 minutes. How the hell does this happen?

You buy it on stage, but not in a movie.

FINAL WORD. If you're a fan of Les Miserables, like me, or musicals in general you'll love the movie and think it's great and amazing. If you dislike movie musicals for all the right reasons, you will hate Les Miserables.

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