27 Feb 2013

Les Misérables

Now I know this may seem a little out-dated to those of you back home, but Les Mis only came out on the 13th February here in France so I think that justifies why it's taken so long to get on the blogging band wagon.

So in a nutshell, what did I think?  (Warning: this is a large nut!)  Given the intense hype surrounding its prolonged release and the star-studded production, I was expecting it to be quite the spectacle.  And it was, to a certain degree.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, as anticipated, stole the show with their gritty performances which at various points had me weeping.  I would argue however that Valjean and Fantine are the strongest parts in the storyline so maybe they had a head start.  It's no surprise therefore that both actors were up for Academy Awards and that Miss Hathaway came away with flying colours. 

Eddie Redmayne's Marius was perfectly sufficient but there's no denying that the actor who played his friend Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) was superior in both looks and musical talent.  Redmayne's slightly weedy voice and slippery portrayal of the story's dominant love interest meant his big number "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was as empty as the lyric.  This statement is perhaps overly critical but I sensed a lack of focus during his performance which could be mistaken for a young vulnerability but I put it down to uneasiness.  

Amanda Seyfried's Cosette was as well executed as can be (dull and shrill) but I've never been particularly fond of Cosette so it's hard not to shrug.  She seems to melt into the backdrop of the student rebellion and as much as I pity her (young Cosette's rendition of "Castle on a Cloud" was a clear winner), she grows into a bit of a wet blanket, hardly helped by Marius' soppy obsession with her.  I suppose she feels confined in many ways due to Javert's insistence on hunting down her adopted father Valjean but I've always struggled to warm to her.  Any emotion she exudes is cutting; not because it extracts sympathy but because it's so jarring and irritating.  Eponine on the other hand knows a thing or two about passion and her love for Marius seems more deep-rooted while Cosette has "A Heart Full of Love" even before knowing his name.  She's suffering from the notorious "need to get out more" syndrome which results in her falling for the first man who gives her the time of day.  Since Amanda Seyfried ticked all these boxes, all credit to her.

Eponine has always been my dream role.  She has more umph to her, more passion, more grittiness, more depth.  She's not pretty and pristine like Cosette; she's earthy, and I suppose I like that about her.  I find her interesting and bien sur I want Marius to fall in love with her.  Yet I was very disappointed by Cameron Macintosh's protegee Samantha Barks.  With a song like "On My Own" she should be raking in the emotion and I should have had shivers down my spine.  I was trying to make my eyes prickle but they didn't; I was more focused on the pavement shining like silver in the rain, or so the lyric goes.  It was a pretty poor attempt at heartache and I wasn't pining for Marius to declare his love for her.  Their duet "A Little Fall of Rain" seemed a little flat and watching Barks die in the flailing arms of Redmayne was a miserable affair.  He hardly seemed to care that she was on the brink of death (having saved his life and all that) and I looked on in dismay at his lack of interest at the perishing body below him.  The song is meant to be a combination of unity and intimacy and neither were implied. 

Russel Crowe's portrayal of "the baddy" Javert was brutal.  I loathed the man from the very start.  But then I guess that's the point.  Crowe's very clipped musical intonation sort of worked, as long as you didn't mistake it for poor projection.  It grew on me, much like a veruca.  I didn't want it to, but it was contagious.  I suppose Javert is a rather empty man, ruled by the law, with no ability to use human sympathy or gratitude to adjust his actions so my expectations had to align with this.  I actually think one of my favourite scenes was his suicide.  Wait for it.  So he was standing on top of a pretty tall building, his feet tippling over the edge as the camera panned in on the sheer drop to the water below and I think somewhere within his apparently empty soul, he felt a shred of guilt.  Perhaps guilt isn't the right word but I felt at last that justice had overcome evil.   (Nb: I know he's 48 and 27 years my senior but there's something incredibly sexy about the man.)

And now to the true heroes.  Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" was nothing short of a miracle.  The song has been sung God knows how many times but she still managed to put her stamp on it and I could feel every inch of her sorrow.  I need not mention that Hathaway chopped off all her luscious locks for the film and is now sporting a pixie crop.  Or how she ate next to nothing so she could shrink down to the size of a skeleton.  I certainly admire her audacity.  The greatest heartache of all was that she died too soon.

Hugh Jackman likewise was fantastic as Valjean.  It was only unfortunate that during his fantastic performance of "What Have I Done?" in the chapel that the lighting was so poor and I could hardly see his face.  He played a fantastic criminal-come-Mayor and the emotion and energy he brought to the role was incredibly uplifting.  His impressive falsetto in "Bring Him Home" showed off just how great and versatile a singer he is.

In conclusion, I am glad I went to see it and I would definitely see it again.  However, the film modem is still unable to capture the raw essence of the stage and something so simple like flying the red flag over the barricade seemed so much more impressive in the latter; partly because it seemed much more vast.  On the other hand, one cannot forget that the film is still in many ways a piece of theatre.  It is the same script and retains many of the theatrical elements of the stage production.  I will not deny that it touched me in ways I didn't expect and I felt a strange voidness after watching it, like there was so much more to life that I needed to reach out and grasp.  I wanted to rehash the movie in my mind (incidentally that's the title to a song in Miss Saigon) and I just felt this strange hunger and connection with what was being played out before me.  It may not live up to the stage production, but it still had me on the edge of my seat.


  1. Pretty much wholly in agreement with you but i thought it was the group numbers which stole the show - do you hear the people sing really moved me.

    1. I agree that 'Do You Hear The People Sing' was very powerful and uplifting! :) I love the song 'One Day More' but don't think it was quite as successful in the film as 'Do you Hear'! I guess there's something quite fabulous about seeing it done on stage and film couldn't quite capture that, particularly with 'One Day More' as there are lots of different singing parts and they sort of had to flick from actor to actor which meant it was quite jumpy!

  2. OMG Montana! You are quite the critic! I loved the movie so much. But maybe that is just my silly American wiles showing.

    p.s. can you tell I'm back reading all your blogs... I'm bored at work. (shrug) :)