Les Miserables: A Film Review

Coach and I saw several films over the holidays. I plan to offer reviews on The Hobbit and The Flowers of War, but then I read this humorous review of Les Mis:

Les Miserables review by Sam Richarson, Las Vegas, NV….. Went to the movies with the wife. We saw this obscure movie I had never heard of, some French foreign film. They must have been giving away free tickets because the lines were out the door. Anyway, the movie starts and Wolverine is singing his guts out. Then Catwoman starts crying and singing, and it’s all very moving. The only problem was, the girl next to me, who had apparently read the book or something, starts singing along. It was very distracting. So Wolverine is on the run from the Gladiator because Catwoman had a baby at Borat’s house, but now she wants Wolverine to care for her. Time skip. A bunch of kids get shot, and in the end everyone dies. Four stars.

I have loved the story of Les Mis since I learned of it in high school. I have performed all of the epic female songs. Coach performed “Empty Chairs, Empty Tables.” Needless to say, we were excited to see it.

I must say it was not what I expected. It was better. Having experience with these songs and knowing their musical beauty, I expected stellar performances, beautifully sung, poetic lines. That is not what I got. I got raw emotion in song. To be honest, it took about 10 minutes or so to adjust my expectations. And once I did, about the point when Valjean was turning his life around, the experience was magical.

I have never seen so much emotion through song, raw emotion, that drug you down or lifted you up. It was an experience. I found myself wishing that I wasn’t so familiar with the story, that I didn’t know the words to each and every song, that I didn’t know what was coming. To see it without any preconceived notions, to take the journey with them, must be breathtaking.

The authenticity and grandeur of the production were stunning, from the opening scene in the dry dock to the barricades. (Save the fact that you don’t pull a ship into a dry dock when it’s dry.) The costumes lovely. The cast superb. But it is the brilliance of the music and lyric that is the show.

Hugh Jackman was so brilliant that he not on the screen. I found myself looking for traces of Wolverine to no avail. Jackman was not there; it was Valjean. He became the character so entirely that he deserves an Oscar nod for Best Actor, if not the award itself. Stunning! Anne Hathaway as Fantine was lovely and tragic. Her fall and subsequent “I Dreamed a Dream” was the most raw, powerful, and authentic performance I have ever witnessed. She too deserves an Oscar nod and probably the award. Russell Crowe as Javert was the weakest link, but his performance was not entirely without merit. His physical presence was imposing and on target. However when surrounded by such amazing talent, I am sad to say I just don’t think Crowe kept up vocally. There were also some directorial choices, like his walking on walls and rooftops during musical numbers that didn’t resonate with me. Eddie Redmayne with his beautiful voice was a wonderful Marius, but I much prefered to hear Aaron Tveit’s solos as Enjolras. His voice was more to my liking. However Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried created a beautiful Marius and Cossette. Their duets left nothing to be desired musically. The Thenairders, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, were terrifically horrendous. They played their parts so well that Coach cringed every time they came on screen. Samatha Banks’ Eponine was unique in that she was able to sing “All By Myself” combining raw emotion and nearly perfect musical interpretations. And last but certainly not least is little Gavroche, played by Daniel Huttlestone. He is a bright young talent who added a great deal to the cast.

Most important to me is the story line. Sin. Forgiveness. Love. Redemption. It is something we all struggle with, a message we all need to hear. It is beautifully told with all the darkness and light the human experience has to offer.

Four Stars, a must-see, and one that we will own.

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