Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Matinee: Les Miserables (2012)

 Years and years ago, I saw Les Miserables on the stage in London.  So I knew the story, and I knew I was going to cry (a lot) before I ever set foot in the movie theater.    I have always wanted to read the book too, but alas, the 1,500 pages smoked me out.  I know, I'm a wimp.  

I'd read quite a few reviews beforehand, and the critics  were either ambivalent about it or really loathed it.  There was all this singing, some of it not well done, pandering for Oscars, road-show carnival, blah blah blah.  Entertainment Weekly showed up at the screening already pissed off and ready for battle before they heard one note.  What a mean-spirited review.  (See if I renew my subscription!  Freaking Commies.)

But it brings forth a good question.  How does one separate the story, which is impossible not to love, people, and the actual movie production?  I'm not sure if I can answer that.  I suppose that is why I am not a movie reviewer.  Because to see the movie is to have it invade your soul and take up space where the tears are stored, thus squeezing out everything.

So, brief summary for a complicated plot.  Convicted bread thief Valjean (Jackman) is released on parole, and is giving a fresh start from a loving bishop.  But in order to start fresh, he disappears (ignoring parole) and is forever hunted down by Captain Javert (Crowe).  Valjean becomes successful and selflessly lives every moment of his life trying to give back to those in need, including Fantine, a young woman who prostitutes in order to send money to a unsavory couple who cares for her little girl.  On Fantine's deathbed, Valjean promises to adopt the little girl, Cosette, and give her the best possible life.  Once Cosette becomes a young woman (Seyfried), she falls in love with a student revolutionary (Redmayne), and the lives of all of them become inexorably entwined.     

  
I thought all the singing (every word in the movie is sung) would bother me but it didn't.  Not everyone is a Broadway-caliber entertainer here, please understand.  But they all performed their own work, they were in key, and after awhile I didn't even notice it.  Russell Crowe has gotten so much crap over his performance and his singing, it makes me sick.  Is singing his thing?  No, of course not!  But it is not that bad.  He was the antagonist who eventually finds his moral code, and that particular transformation was moving to me.  I really have no wish to hear any more about his dyspeptic facial expressions or his "Cap'n Crunch" costuming - like that hat and epaulets are HIS fault.   

The performances by Hathaway and Jackman were superb.  My God, just rip my heart out and stomp on it.  If you have heard a rumor that you might cry harder at the movie than at a funeral, take heed.  Jackman had a few issues with his singing as well, but his raw emotion (and devastating good looks) compensates for them.  And of course, as I'm sure you all know at this point, Hathaway knocks it right out of the park, despite the fact that her on-screen time is minimal.  Dare you not to lose it when she sings (or as EW so sweetly describes it, warbles) "I Dreamed a Dream".  Plus she has her hair cut live in one of the scenes, and she loses 25 pounds for the role.  No small feat, this.

The use of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter for comic relief as Cosette's swindling caretakers worked well.  They were over-exaggerated, nasty and hilarious, as both of them do so well.  It provides that tiny bit of farce that lightens an otherwise heavy load.

The costumes were gorgeous.  Costuming is not something I usually notice.  I live in t-shirts and jeans and flip flops so a fashion maven I am not.  But all that silk, lace, ruffles and rags were stunning to the eye.  

I know many people have been on the fence about seeing this movie, with concerns about the length (close to 3 hours with previews) and the singing, but I left the movie feeling that everyone should give this film a try.  It so touched my heart.  It does have a PG-13 rating, with some bloodshed and prostitution.  My biggest concern, though, for an appropriately-aged kid would be whether they would understand what was going on.  I saw my daughter's eyes glaze over a few times.

Resist the haters.  Bring the tissues.  And enjoy.

5 out of 5 stars    


19 comments:

bermudaonion said...

The friend I see movies with will generally go see anything but refuses to see this one. She said the thought of every single word being sung turns her off. I haven't decided if I want to make the effort to ask someone else, go see it alone, or just skip it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I can't believe we still haven't seen this. ESPECIALLY because I am so into the Legend series by Marie Lu which has many parallels to Les Miz...

Beth F said...

I really need to see this.

caite said...

I have not seen it yet, but I know I will love it! I have seen the play several times and if the movie were a fraction as good I would love it.
The clips I have seen, of Jackman (what a talented man) and Hathaway, are enough to make me love it.
Love it.

Damn the critics!

Marie said...

I loved the movie. I know it's cheesy but I loved it. I didn't even mind Russell Crowe. I think everyone should see it!

Peaceful Reader said...

I loved the movie. I saw it on Broadway years ago when I was a teenager and was worried it wouldn't live up to my memory but it did. I loved Hathaway's and H.B.Carter's performances the absolute most. I love how it introduces mainstream public to the musical.

ds said...

Someday, I swear I will read the book. Until then, memories of the NY production (lucky, lucky you to have seen this in London!) and this movie must suffice. Was it perfect? No. Did I cry? Yes. Hathaway and Jackman were wonderful, as was the lad who played Gavroche. "Marius" surprised me, he was so good. But I wish they had given Helena Bonham Carter more room; she seemed squelched. But you know we'll add it to the DVD collection when the time comes. Thanks for your review, Sandy. You could be a movie critic!

Darlene said...

I'd really like to read the book before seeing the movie so I'll probably be waiting till it comes out on video. Lol.

Zibilee said...

My kids helped with a student production of this play last year, and I loved it. I have already seen the previous movie, and need to see this one too. I had no idea that the whole movie was done with song, but it makes sense, and I also would be a little angry at the repeated bashing of the cast, who are mainly actors and NOT singers. Haters really bug me sometimes. It sounds like a really passionate and moving movie, and that is why I am so eager to see it. Very eloquent review today. I appreciated it.

Julie P. said...

I really want to see this. Love this story on the stage and I'm sure I'd love this version too.

Carrie K. said...

I've seen it twice - it was even better the second time - and I cried harder.

Tasha B. said...

I like musicals, but this one has always been off my radar. I would like to read the book some day, though.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

Les Mis is my absolute favorite Broadway show (hubby and I saw it in Chicago at least 3 times before we moved here) so I was beyond excited for this movie to come out. It totally lived up to my expectations and I loved every second of it. No, Russell Crowe wasn't the BEST but he did good enough, and everyone else was fantastic. I thought it was cast perfectly, acted beautifully, and yes of course I sobbed. SO MUCH LOVE.

Melissa said...

I soooo want to watch this. I have to do it without Darren though. His eyes would glaze over at the mere thought of having to watch with me. :)

Trisha said...

Agreed! Hear, hear! Anyone who goes into this expecting singers instead of actors is ridiculous, and honestly I liked it better that their voices were so "real".

Florinda Pendley Vasquez said...

I've never seen this show on stage, but I've been to see the movie three times, and loved it more each time!

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Jenners said...

To this day I don't get that EW review. It was so undeserved and mean and nasty. You gotta wonder what the story is there. (And didn't that reviewer just reitre from writing movie reviews? THANK GOODNESS.)

I'm just waiting for Anne to get her well-deserved Oscar.

stacybuckeye said...

So, I'd never seen or read any version of Les Mis. Two weeks ago I saw the traveling Broadway show on Friday and then went to see the movie on Saturday! It'll make for a good post this Friday :)
The one thing I disagree with you on is Sasha and Helena. For me, it was an obvious choice but not a good one.