Les Misérables: My Thoughts


I first saw Les Misérables on stage in the summer of 2002 in New York. It is by far my favorite musical. I know the songs. I have sung them as lullabies to all three kids. So when I first heard of the coming screen adaptation of the musical, I was extremely excited. Then, yesterday, I saw the movie.

I really wanted to like the movie. And, to some extent, I did. It’s not that I disliked it, but I left the theater feeling confused by it.

It had one thing that really bugged me. And it had little to do with the acting or the music.

408631366159186045It just seemed to struggle to identify whether it was to be a musical or a movie. Like the film versions of Rent and Phantom of the Opera, it was searching. The music part of the equation was mostly great, but where was the movie side? After the grand cinematic opening in the shipyard, the balance of the movie was shot at an almost uncomfortably close range. Faces filled the screen during many of the solo songs. With the possible exceptions of “On My Own” and “Stars” there was an intensely personal focus on the face of the singer. But even those two lapsed into closeups. And for me, that was just too close. It just needed some space.

There were no sweeping camera shots to help tell the story, no panoramas of the settings. The finale was shot like this and was probably my favorite song of the movie. It was stirring and emotional. Then again, it was a company song, not a solo. So maybe I just have personal space issues.

While we’re on the music, it was easy to tell the difference in those who were singing actors and those who were acting singers. I was blown away by Anne Hathaway’s voice. I had no clue the Princess of Genovia could sing like that. Jackman did a solid job as well, but Russell Crowe. . .that was painful. As for the Thenardier’s, the casting was absolutely perfect. Sacha Baron Cohen was magnificent as was Susana Bonham Carter.

As for the show stealer, Samantha Barks was brilliant. I have the DVD of the 25th anniversary concert in which she played Eponine. I knew she would be great, but I had no clue she would be that good.

In conclusion, I did enjoy the film, but not nearly as much as I enjoy the musical. I realize this is likely an unpopular opinion on the movie, but you can try to convince me otherwise in the comments below.

 


  • Allison Bussell

    I have not seen the musical, but I would expect any musical to be better than the movie. I thought the movie was incredible. I largely agree with most of your comments, except that I thought the close ups were wonderful and appropriate and, perhaps, a nice way of making it a movie and not a musical. Hathaway was amazing, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar, the members of the Academy have lost their minds. I agree Barks was fantastic and definitely a standout. But I believe Eddie Redmayne’s (Marius) emotional performance after his friends were shot was one of the best (definitely top 3) performances in the movie. And Amanda Seyfried (adult Cosette) voice was incredibly captivating. They both deserve a major shoutout. Now I just have to talk Jeremy into going to see it because I want to see it on the big screen one more time.

    • http://howeoriginal.com/ Jonathan Howe

      Agreed on Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. That’s my favorite song in the musical. But back to my point on that, he just sat on a chair and sang it. I was almost bored. But he sang it really well.

      What did you think of the added song? It seemed out of place to me. The musical themes from the rest of the music weren’t there.