I Have Many Thoughts About Les Miserables

OKAY HI! I’m Miss B, and I have a LOT to say about Les Miserables. Full disclosure: I saw Les Mis for the first time in 1989 on Broadway, and somewhere along the way I lost track of my repeat viewings. I was a theatre kid, I even have a completely useless BFA in it. I sang “On My Own” into my hairbrush. I am, to put it lightly, a fan. So when the first trailer came out for the movie (OMG, Wolverine! OMG, Anne Hathaway weighs nine pounds! OMG, Cosette is still a useless bint!) I was a tiny bit excited. And on Christmas Eve, a friend of mine insisted we would go to the movie. I took time out of my very busy schedule of watching the trailers and sobbing to go to the movies, and here’s what I thought.

I loved it. LOVED IT. But I have many notes, and here they are.
Hugh Jackman. You will not find a bigger fan of Wolvie than I am. And I thought he ripped his heart out for the role of Jean Valjean. It was amazing. But. Perhaps it was his mannerisms, but I felt he was really struggling with the vocals. He was fantastic and no doubt completely dedicated, and “Bring Him Home” had me in tears, but there was something…off. Was it the now-infamous countless takes of live singing? I’d like to think so. That role is hard eight times a week. I can’t imagine what it would be like eight times a DAY.
Anne Hathaway. Well. Girlfriend BROUGHT IT. I was always an Eponine girl, and thought Fantine was kind of a one-dimensional angelic figure, but Anne BROUGHT THE GOODS. She made Fantine complex and heart-rendering. And as someone who has shaved her head in the past, I salute Anne for her dedication to the role. Keep the hair, Anne! It’s growing out to be crazy cute! I had forgotten that in the book Fantine not only sold her locket and hair, but her TEETH, and holy crap, that was harrowing. If it wasn’t for the douchebag next to us playing on his phone, I would have shouted “She’s DYING don’t you SEE THAT? Cut a sister some SLACK!!!!” As I said, I’ve seen the play countless times, and I have never been moved by Fantine like I was with Hathaway. Engrave her name in the Oscar now. Just do it. DO IT NOW.
Cosette. Oh lordo, what to say about my least-favorite character. Okay, I hate Cosette. Not YOUNG Cosette, I thought the little girl who played her was really great. But grown-up Cosette? Just…no. She’s simpering. She’s plastic. She’s a whiny little twat. I’ve always hated Cosette. But that’s not Amanda Seifried’s fault. Her voice is fine. It’s thin and warbly, but that’s Cosette. I wish she had a little more breath control, but she’s not a Broadway star, she’s a film actress. Which brings us to…
Eponine. Oh, Eponine. I wanted to BE YOU when I was in high school. Only you understood me! And Samantha Barks is fantastic. It’s CLEARLY obvious that she’s the theatre kid. Her voice (and Enjolras’s) are really the only two that belt out for life, and I really have to give her credit, I’ve seen the Les Mis 25th anniversary concert countless times, and she’s amazing in it, but she toned down the Broadway Belt for the movie. Restraint. Very professional. And don’t get me started on the horrible editing that follows her (SPOILER) death. Marius is supposed to be devastated. Shattered. And they cut the film wrong there. I’m still seething. Also, did Samantha Barks get ribs removed or something? Her waist is RIDICULOUS.
So let’s talk about Marius. Marius can be played two ways. One is a stupid, boring, one-dimensional brat (see: 25th anniversary concert, Jonas Brother Edition) and the other is the classic Michael Ball tormented, confused kid wanting revolution and then falling entirely in young, hopeless love. I think Eddie Redmayne is the Michael Ball Marius. He brings layers to his character that others haven’t – there’s a moment in “Do You Hear The People Sing” where he grabs a red flag and there is a determination in his face that’s really classic – so good job, Eddie. You could have coasted this and you didn’t.
And I guess it’s time to talk about Russell Crowe. SPOILER! Crowe isn’t as bad as you’ve heard. He just isn’t. Sure, his voice is affected in the way that only a rock singer can be (he’s in a rock band, right?) and that doesn’t fit the show at all, but people are howling that he ruins the movie, and that simply isn’t true. He’s perfectly stoic (as Javert should be) and when he is vulnerable and confused, he plays it well. Sure, he’ll never get a Broadway role. But physically? Emotionally? He’s right for the role. And he’s not bad. Not good, but not bad.
And now a few closing notes (hahahhaa, I’m clever.) A few notes! Gavroche. Guys, you have no idea. After the horror in Connecticut, a child dying from a bullet is shattering, but Gavroche’s death is so. Freaking. Painful. Be prepared.
Enjolras’s last stand. Bring another box of tissues.
Colm Wilkenson’s cameo. For those who aren’t COMPLETE UTTER NERDS, Colm was  the original Valjean. You’ll swoon when you first see him. You’ll sob when you see him next.
If you’re a Les Mis nerd like me, you’ll notice the weird changes in the wording of some songs. Sure it’s only one or two words at a time, but it will GET TO YOU. It’s okay. I’m here for you.
Have I said enough? Are you going to see it again? Cause I really need a movie date.
OMG I HAVE MORE TO SAY I NEED AN EDITOR OR MAYBE A SEDATIVE. The Thenardiers. I was very wary of the obvious stunt casting of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. This is not a Tim Burton film, people. I was grumpy. But you know what? It worked. It worked REALLY WELL. Cohen gives us a much (desperately) needed giggle with his ongoing joke of not knowing Cosette’s name (DARLING COLETTE….COSETTE) and in the (extremely disgusting) sewer scene, he sadly doesn’t get his song, but it’s still effective. And I cannot even begin to deal with how gross that scene is. CANNOT BEGIN TO DEAL.

Okay, I’m done. MAYBE. Go see it. Bring tissues. No, bring MORE tissues. You’re welcome.


I Have Many Thoughts About Les Miserables — 5 Comments

  1. Yes yes yes! I agree that Hathaway glowed and several characters were more resonant than I expected, incling, for me, Amanda’s Cosette. I thought Russell was nasally and underplayed, and it got in the way for me but didn’t ruin it for me. Jackman rode the break, it felt, but then delivered in the end, so his performance ended up making sense. I LOVED Cohen and Helena. Loved the staging and costumes/makeup in their pieces too. Tell me you don’t want a broad collared jacket like Jackman’s. and Eponine’s voice killed me. Her voice and Hathaway’s acting were the highlights, along with the triumphant ensemble medleys. Ah!

  2. Agreed.

    Russell’s not quite having the chops did bug, b/c “Stars” is supposed to be JUST AMAZINGLY AWESOME OMG and it just….wasn’t. Amanda Seyfriend’s vibrato was a tad irksome. She sounded like a baby lamb.But I’ve never been a Cosette girl, either.

    Barks was great. Tveit was delicious. Hathaway was outstanding. I thought Eddie Redmayne was spectacular. I agree that Jackman’s voice did seem strained at times.

    Colm Wilkinson. OMG. I wasn’t expecting to see him the second time and that was crazy effective. Sobbed like a wee babe.

    And thank you for making me feel like I’m not crazy for being annoyed by the word order changes.

  3. Have you heard the Behind Les Mis interviews on Sirius On Broadway? Turns out Amanda had several years of opera training when she was young and Russell started out in musical theater. Or theatre. He was in Australia. And they discuss the difference in singing intimately to the camera and belting out in a powerful stage voice to a crowd of 20 thousand.

    I agree that Russell Crowe did not completely disappoint. He seemed to struggle a bit on some of the sing-speak parts but he did a nice job on Stars.

    It seemed the Hollywood Thenardiers were more evil than the Broadway Thenardiers. Their sneers just seemed less comic relief and more bad intentions.

    Here’s the post with my thoughts:

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