Les Miserables - My Review

Christmas evening, after a nice day with my family and a long visit with my son in Taiwan, we went to Les Miserables. Luckily, I'd bought tickets a week earlier so we had excellent seats in the sold-out theater.

I love a good stage production but I was really looking forward to the settings and cinematography that a movie would have. I knew Hugh Jackman had done live musicals and Amanda Seyfried had been in Mamma Mia, so I had hopes for the music. Musically, it turned out to be a mixed bag for me.

Emotionally, I found it fantastic and I cried more than once during the movie. Here's a breakdown of the main characters and my opinion about them. These are my opinions and I've read others who completely disagree with me, so the only opinion that really matters (sort of) is that I think it's powerful and you should go to it.

Fantine - Anne Hathaway has never been a favorite of mine. There's just something about her. I can't place my finger on it but her acting usually bugs me because she seems to take herself so seriously. Maybe that lent itself to this role, but I thought she was fantastic. Her singing was much better than I expected and she broke my heart in the role.

Jean Valjean - Hugh Jackman is a great actor. The "acting" he brought to one of the greatest roles ever was better than his singing. He was good, don't get me wrong. He hit all the right notes, but his singing never made me ache inside and that's what Colm Wilkinson and Alfie Boe have always done in this role. A nice little treat was that Colm Wilkinson played the Bishop. Sigh! I saw Alfie Boe sing "Bring Him Home" just 9 days earlier with the Tabernacle Choir, so honestly, Hugh Jackman was fighting an uphill battle to win me over musically.

Eponine - Samantha Barks played the role on Broadway and she was good. She's pretty in a unconventional way and her voice is beautiful.

Marius - Eddie Redmayne was my favorite surprise in the movie. I've always thought Marius was a little dull, even a little shallow, but Eddie Redmayne played him with an intensity and emotion that blew me away. And his singing was the best of the movie, for me. I could have listened to him all night. I loved the way they chose to do "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Instead of having the ghosts of his friends filling the stage, he sat in the empty room they used to meet in all alone. Just him. And he sang with a rare combination of emotion and control that I'd pay to see the movie again and again just to watch him. He was a highlight and while the cast recording would be weaker than the Broadway cast recording with almost every character, not so with Eddie.

Young Cosette and Gavroche - Fantastic and not at all precious or precocious. Just likable and sympathetic and adorable.

Cosette - Amanda Seyfried was pretty and her voice was pleasant. Her duet with Marius was nice but more because of him than her. I've never loved the grown-up Cosette though. The emotions of Eponine (and the fact that Eponine sings "On My Own") have always made me dislike Cosette a little. That may not be fair, but that's how I feel.

The Thenardiers - Helena Bonham-Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen were good as far as those roles go, but I can't stand the Thenardiers so I don't really care.

Javert - Russell Crowe was the most disappointing to me. I had high hopes since he's a singer. I mean, Brandon Flowers is the front man for a rock band and he could have belted out "Stars" and made me forget all about the injustices he was trying to inflict on Jean Valjean. In fact, I'd have let him deputize me and I'd have joined him in his misguided quest. Because of that, I hoped that since Russell Crowe is the frontman for 30 Odd Feet of Grunts (an Australian band), he'd be better. I found his singing really weak and I felt like his acting suffered because of it. Maybe he was self-councious since he was so musically out-talented but I just didn't feel any fire or passion from him and fire and passion are what drive the Javert character. How can such a big guy have such a small voice?

There you have it. Will I see it again? Oh yeah! Will I cry with Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne again? Probably.

We took our children. Our youngest is 12. We had him cover his eyes during the entire Lovely Ladies segment and the Thenardiers.


Lisa said...

can't wait!

Leslie said...

loved it!!! i would see it again and again and again!
i cried with fauntine as well. i hated that i knew her character was going to die because she was one of my very favorite characters in this movie.
the song 'i dreamed a dream' is now one of my fave songs in that movie. i have always loved it, but i love it even more now.
i would love to see it with my sisters and sisters in law.

missy said...

I'm so glad to read your thoughts. Having just seen it on stage, I was leery about a movie. And I feared the two sleazy scenes would certainly be worse on film. Thanks for sharing. I might actually consider seeing it after all.

Mindy said...

I have to disagree about Russell Crowe. I've even listened to the soundtrack again (Aubrey bought it) and his voice has a quality to it that I love. Maybe it's because it's not a big broadway voice with lots of vibrato that I'm drawn to it. The rest of your review I agree with... even the part about Cosette. :)

Karey said...

I'm not surprised you disagree with me about Russell Crowe, Mindy. You're not the first person I've heard of that really liked him. It's so subjective and boils down to tastes and even though I'd have preferred a different voice, it certainly won't keep me from seeing it again (or probably buying the soundtrack myself).

Annie said...

I agree with all of your comments.
It's hard to separate out my feelings about their acting vs their singing, vs the character role they played. But Marius's clear voice was my favorite part of the movie.

Nicole *Ü* said...

I completely agree with you about Hugh Jackman. His acting as Valjean was excellent, but his voice just leaves much to be desired for me. My husband and in-laws completely disagree with you and I, though. They thought he was incredible. Samantha Barks was my favorite, and I totally agree about the Eponine/Cosette dynamic. Once Cosette grows up, she loses all appeal for me, though Amanda Seyfried sang well, and all sympathies lie with Eponine. The Thenardiers surprised me since there were no sneak peaks of their scenes, I was worried about their singing. They're awful characters, but I thought they played them well, although both those actors are typecast in those roles usually anyway. I, however, am probably the only person who liked Russell Crowe as Javert. I thought his singing was so much better than Jackman's. His tone and quality were right on, where I am just not a fan of Jackman's singing. I do think Crowe could have belted out Stars and the suicide song stronger, but I thought his voice was cleaner and better than Jackman's. My oldest (13) wants to see it so bad and because of the Lovely Ladies scene I said no. Not that I don't think there's a purpose for showing Fantine's downfall, I just think their portrayal of her scene with the captain was too much for young minds. I was totally impressed with the little details they could have only gotten from the book that just aren't possible or shown in the stage production. It was very well done and I've been dying to go see it again! I may see it several times in the theater before it finally comes out on DVD and I can buy it!! LOL

John said...

Okay!!!! -tawnie