Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Which I Review Les Miserables (While Crying)

Tom Hooper, director of Les Mis, also directed one of my favorite movies ever, The King's Speech. So going into Les Mis, I had a lot of expectations. Having read Victor Hugo's masterpiece and never seeing the musical, I was pretty curious how this was going to turn out. I am so so relieved and glad to tell you that I loved it.

The singing is all great, emphasis on Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. For those who have heard harsh criticism for Russel Crowe, he is not as bad as everyone is saying. Amanda Seyfried is also surprisingly good, considering I only ever see her as her character from Mean Girls. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks are perfect. Aaron Tviet is also lovely. Seriously, it is harder to imagine a better cast for this movie, they handle the material so well. And Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen add just enough humor to remind you to stop crying, if only for five minutes.

There is a grand sweeping epicness to Les Mis even when it's at it's most wretched. That by no means softens the blows these characters take, but makes the story more effective to the audience. I can honestly say I've never sobbed more at a movie in my life. As I mentioned before, Anne Hathaway delivers the most heart-wrenching performance of any sort I have ever seen. There was not a dry eye in the theater when she sang I Dreamed A Dream. Samantha Barks is also another excellent performance, and from what I understand, she's been playing Eponine for quite a while now. And really, there are not enough words for Hugh Jackman's excellence. Jean Valjean is no easy task to take on as an actor and he aces it.

As someone who had never heard the songs before the movie, I was blown away by how amazing this music is. Again, this isn't so much a note on this version as the musical itself. This music is wonderful and powerful and fits together beautifully. It manages to strike the balance between honesty and theatricality. Go listen to "I Dreamed A Dream" or "On My Own" or "Stars" or even "Drink With Me". It's perfect for the musical. Fun to listen to, and provides  perfect insight into these characters. I was a complete wreck when the Barricade Babes who have a much more fancy, dignified, and French name  in the book and musical, sang "Drink With Me" because it was perfect. I especially loved reading the latter chapters at the barricade in the book, which only makes it more sad. But moving on. I'm not going to cry again writing this.

I was also really surprised how well some of these characters were done despite this being a two and a half musical. Victor Hugo created a lot of characters that I spent about 1500 pages with prior to the movie (two years ago to be exact). Like I said, Jean Valjean is no easy task, and Javert is done very well too. This isn't so much a note on Hooper as it is a note on the original musical. I'm impressed with how well you're acquainted with these characters even though you only get to see them for short amounts on time, i.e. Fantine. Effective characterization is always helpful, and it's employed usefully here.

Anyway, whereas Hooper's King Speech was quietly minimalistic, Les Mis is  big in every sense of the word, and that's not a bad thing. Go see it, because there will never be a better musical set in post-revolution France ever.

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