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Monday, December 31, 2012

Les Miserables, the movie

I’m going to end the year with a movie review. I just have to. I haven’t been to a theater in such a long time (I think it was the last Harry Potter movie) and now the good films are just popping out all over.

Ever since I heard that they FINALLY decided to make a movie from the stage production of “Les Miserables” I’ve been on edge. It could go either way. They could do a great job, replicating the play in every way and maybe even improving it, or they could completely massacre it. I’m thrilled to report that they did the former.

To start here are a couple of other reviews you might want to check out. One is negative:

and one is a little more positive:

Now the first time I saw the stage production was in ’94 (I think). I was still mourning the loss of my grandfather and had never read Victor Hugo’s book. My mom and I attended together. I bawled my eyes out. It was like I was in shock afterward; I was unprepared for such an emotional story. I’ve seen it once or twice more on stage and each time I cried but never so painfully as that first time. So this time I took a pocketful of tissues prepared for the waterfall.

I’m not going to explain the story since you can get that over and over again all over the internet. Instead I’m just going to give you my impressions.

The movie starts with a bang. Well, I guess there was a quiet inkling of the Les Miz music for just a second or so then wham – it started. From the very first scene I was amazed. The scenery is incredible. Unlike one reviewer I appreciated the landscapes and cityscapes – that’s what makes a movie different from a stage play: you can do more.

As the movie progressed I came to realize that the producers also enhanced the stage version by using more references from the book (I have read the book a couple of times after I saw the play that first time).

I will say a few semi-negative things about it though. First, Russell Crowe? Really? (Someone wrote that Russell Crowe “forgot to act”) I heard that Ewan McGregor was up for that part. I know he would have done a much better job although he’s a little short to be playing next to Hugh Jackman. Also I could have done without the sex scenes (one with Anne Hathaway as a first-time prostitute and the other, well, involving Santa Claus). And if you think that the first half is a little rough, hang on. The second half of the movie is superb!

The younger actors gave the best performances. I am woefully unfamiliar with them myself but I understand that the actors portraying Cosette, Marius and Eponine are popular today (Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks respectively). They sang their hearts out and broke my heart. Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) fit my vision of that character perfectly. His version of  “Red and Black” nearly brought me to my feet.

The younger crew, Isabelle Allen as the child Cosette and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche, kind of balanced each other. Allen has a beautiful, sweet voice with the innocent look of an abused child. Huttlestone appears tough and streetwise as his character should but his voice is not strong enough for the part. His death scene though is enough to bring even the coldest person to tears.

Then there’s Colm Wilkinson, who plays the bishop in this version of Les Miz. What can you say about him? He has the most beautiful voice and a great presence. He was the original Jean Valjean, the one all others are measured by. His part here is very small and yet he makes it memorable.

Some of the well-established songs are cut short in this version unfortunately, and the words are changed in several instances. But perhaps the most jarring change is the rearrangement of scenes. Sometimes this juggling causes some problems with the storyline.

However, the addition of Lamarque’s funeral procession only enhances the spirit of this story. When the entire crowd joins in with the students singing “Do You Hear the People Sing” you can’t help but feel a victory is in the works. And I loved the way they handled the “One Day More” compilation. On the stage it is impossible to separate the actors so that they appear in different locations but in the movie that’s exactly what happens. We see them simultaneously anticipating the events to come in only one day. Thrilling.

But no one can mess with the finale, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Though I’d been crying so hard up to that point that finale made me swell with pride. But then I thought, laughingly, what am I so proud of? I only sat here watching a movie. Funny, but that’s what you feel after seeing the pride of these people.

I noticed at the end that I wasn’t the only person still sitting firmly in my seat. I think we all just needed to unwind our emotions. That, or we wanted to make sure our tears were dried before we headed out into the public arena. I’ve heard that many audiences applauded at the end but ours did not. It seems like such a strange thing to do, clapping when there are no actors to hear our appreciation. Who are they clapping for?

Can you tell, I absolutely loved this film? I will probably be going to see it again in the next couple of days. Then I’ll see “The Hobbit” again J.


  1. Thanks for your review, Andrea! I can't wait to see it--I'm only just getting back to movies in the theater.

    1. You're welcome! I never can wait to share when I see a movie I like. I used to be such a nut going to movies all the time but I can't afford it anymore so I'm getting pickier.

      I hope you get to see it soon.