Wednesday, January 2

REVIEW: Les Misérables

Directed by Tom Hooper
2012 Musical
2 hours 37 minutes
From Universal Studios

Hugh Jackman
Russell Crowe
Anne Hathaway
Amanda Seyfried
Eddie Redmayne
Helena Bonham Carter
Sacha Baron Cohen
Aaron Tveit
Samantha Barks

It takes big balls to bum rap Les Misérables.  Everyone seems to love it.  Well, I am up to the task.  I think it's pretty much a given that I like most people I write about and I like most new films I review.  The latter comes about because I ordinarily do not see movies I don't think I will like.  When I review them I point out the myriad things that impress me and if there is this or that I didn't care for, I say that, too.  Reviewing Les Misérables is going to be the exact opposite.  I liked almost nothing about it and I will have to lean back in this chair and ponder what I can say that I enjoyed or admired.  This will likely sound more like a rant than a review.  If that could annoy you, here is where you may want to click off.

I have never seen any prior film or any play on this work nor have I read the Victor Hugo novel.  Still, I don't come to this fresh exactly because I have seen clips from it, I have seen a song performed here and there on an awards show and I heard Susan Boyle sing  one.  Other than Boyle, I have never been impressed and was certain I would not like this film though so help me I tried.

I gave in to seeing it for several reasons.  Well-meaning friends have told me for years this is the greatest score they have ever heard and if some didn't quite say that, then they still drooled a bit.  Secondly, by and large, I do like this cast, although I have earnestly questioned most of them as singers (more on this).  Thirdly, there is already much Oscar talk and that always, always gets my attention.  My partner didn't want to especially see it either, but off we lumbered today to the local cinema, to a matinee with six others in attendance.  Presumably we are late-comers.

If you haven't clicked off yet, here, I want to give you another chance.  I love musicals as you well know but this was the dreariest, ugliest, most boring musical I have ever seen.  Hell, now even Newsies has moved up a spot.  It was populated with mainly good actors who were only so-so as singers.  Shouldn't a film with so many songs have good singers to deliver them?  It absolutely pained me to listen to Hugh Jackman sing.  I heard him in The Boy from Oz and Oklahoma and liked how he warbled, but he was in way over his head for this one.  I could say the same for perhaps three others, but will let them off the hook.  Jackman I cannot let off the hook.

I did not like the downer story or any of the characters until Eddie Redmayne came on the screen about halfway through.  It did pick up a bit for me then because I like Redmayne a great deal, he can sing and he gave the film a much-needed shot of hope.  I could say the same about Aaron Tveit as his buddy and Samantha Barks as a girl who loved Redmayne.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius

For all intents and purposes, of course, this story of the post-French Revolution era is an opera.  That is a movie musical form I don't particularly care for because of the non-stop singing.  For those who consider this one of the great musical scores, I gotta tell you I absolutely do NOT get that.  This work has maybe two songs worth noting and that is it.  The rest are not only downer songs but they all sound the same and carry much the same message.  Furthermore, they are talk-sung by most of the cast.  Don't fret now... I didn't like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady either.

The opening scene with the ship was astonishing.  There were some sets that commandeered my attention and the photography was quite good.  There is no question that this was an ambitious project from Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper.  I have seen interviews with him and a number of cast members and the film seemed to be a labor of love for all of them.

We won't say much about the 2-hour and 37-minute running time because you already know I found it interminable.

I don't think a musical should be about ubiquitious despair (with songs to take it into overdose) anymore than I think a comedy should be about mass murder.  If I don't soon get to drink or drugs or an Abbott and Costello movie, I may have to go out ice fishing and take my chances.  Please God, cheer me up.  Hurry.

Review of The Impossible


  1. Well I suppose there is a reason it's called The Miserables, no? :o) Sorry it was such a bummer of an experience. I enjoyed the live play, but haven't found movie versions to be as compelling. It's likely I'll skip this one too.

  2. I was disappointed. I love the story (have seen several film versions - nonmusical; most recently a 5 hour l924 (or l934) fantastic version; and the musical at least 3 times - etc.
    I thought the voices were awful - relative to the stage performers. Russell Crowe was not nearly as evil as Javert was supposed to have been, and he is not a singer. His songs should have been dubbed (but then he'd have nothing to say, since everything was sung. Anne Hathaway has a good voice, but not while acting. Hugh Jackman was too melodramatic, and his makeup was awful. Toward the end he was supposed to be old, not haggard. Eddie Redmayne pleasantly surprised me with his singing; and Eponine also had a good voice. The innkeepers were no match for the broadway performers. But - I guess the filmakers wanted names rather than talent for this one.
    And since this is a musical, I think the musical ability of the performers should have been paramount. Even Liza Doolittle had her voice dubbed in My Fair Lady - since they refused to have the unknown - Julie Andrews - do the film.

  3. Thank God I've been saved by the review from having to see this...THING.