I have been a Les Miserables fan since middle school, when we took a group trip to the Mechanic Theater in Baltimore to see it. My friends and I were VERY into Les Mis! Each of us would love one of the characters for a while and really relate to them, and then move on to something else. I was so looking forward to the movie, and I wanted to give a character by character review of the movie. There are spoilers, and that is because if you are reading this, I expect that you have either already watched the movie or you have seen the musical on stage before and therefore your experience will not be ruined. If you have never seen the stage show OR the movie, you probably should get a background on it before seeing it in the theater anyway.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine): Hugh did a splended job playing Jean Valjean. I knew I would tear up during the movie, being pregnant and emotional and all, but instead of sobbing through the whole thing, I did manage to keep it together except for a few parts. One of those times was between "What Have I Done?" and "At the End of the Day", since it's the part that takes the prologue into Act I and has for some reason always been kick ass. Hugh didn't disappoint here. His voice was awesome, his acting was spot on. He deserved his Golden Globe, and I would not be surprised to see him collect an Oscar this weekend. Good for him!
Javert (Russell Crowe, aka Gladiator): Oh, Russell. Why were you cast in this part? You ruined Javert. There were all of these news stories about how you took vocal lessons in order play this part and my question remains - WHY not cast someone who can sing in the first place? Are we really that desperate for a Javert that we HAD to cast a major star in this part? There have been like 30 people who have played Javert on stage over the years, certainly one of them was better than Russell Crowe. I am not a huge Russell Crowe fan in the first place, but I don't disrespect him as an actor. However, he was REALLY focused on the singing - so much so that he forgot to act. So, both his singing AND his acting were bad. Javert's major solo songs - "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide" should have been emotional and moving, but they were cardboard. The words and the notes were there, but Russell just stared into space like he was too focused on hitting the notes to add any sort of emotion to anything. Big disappointment. Norm Lewis would have been my first choice to play Javert, by the way. I tried to find him doing "Javert's Suicide" from the 25th Anniversary tour, and this was the best I could do. Go to 4:30 to see it. And here's Russell Crowe. Ugh, so awful. AWFUL. Also, here's a play by play of other Javerts doing "Stars". You can clearly see that Norm Lewis is FAR superior to everyone else. Ewan Macgregor would have been another good choice if we HAD to go with a Hollywood star. Or, come on, how about Neil Patrick Harris even??
Fantine (Anne Hathaway, aka Princess Mia): Anne Hathaway NAILED IT. She made up for any suckage coming from Russell Crowe. As you may imagine, having been 13 when I was first introduced to Les Mis, my friends and I used to giggle and giggle over "Lovely Ladies," which the song where Fantine starts selling things (a locket, her hair, and finally her body) in order to pay for the care of her daughter. It's sung by prostitutes and has a lot of raunchy lyrics (I smell women, smell them in the air, think I'll drop my anchor in that harbor over there!) .... lots of things for an 8th grader to giggle at. But, WOW, Anne Hathaway took what was a giggle worthy song and added so much pain and desperation and misery that I cried through what I would have laughed at as a kid. She brought Fantine's suffering to the screen like nobody has before and really knocked it out of the park. People go on and on about "I Dreamed a Dream", and that was great also, but "Lovely Ladies" really did it for me. I have trouble deciding if she or Hugh Jackman played the better part overall.
The Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter, aka Borat and Bellatrix): First of all, if you have a screen adaptation of a show, it is not going to be successful without HBC. These two were both cast so perfectly, and I knew it when I heard they were cast. I was delighted! The Thenardiers have always been my favorite characters (I know, that's awful). It's unfortunate that some of their songs were shortened or eliminated. I've never loved "Dog Eats Dog," so I didn't miss that one, but I would have liked "Beggars at the Feast" to have stayed around.
Cosette (Amanda Seyfried, aka the oldest daughter from Big Love): Eh. You see, I've always kind of loathed Cosette anyway. I mean, everybody goes out of their way for her through the ENTIRE THING. Fantine, Valjean, Eponine, Marius... and she really doesn't do much of anything except sing in a high pitched voice for a bunch of songs that are syrupy sweet and about teenage love. She's not a bad person, but we really learn very little about her and therefore I feel very little emotion for her at all. Amanda Seyfried was a good choice, sure. But, Cosette (and to some extent Marius) is why Act II has always dragged for me, and why it dragged in the movie. I get it. You're in love. Now, let's hear Eponine sing "On My Own"!
Eponine (Samantha Barks aka Eponine): Samantha played Eponine on stage. So, yeah, they did with her what they should have done with Javert. She did a great job, I liked her as Eponine. She's not my favorite, Lea Salonga is, but Lea Salonga plays Fantine and a million other parts also and happens to be one of my favorite stage actresses ever. She's also too old to play Eponine now, so Samantha Barks is fine.
Marius (Eddie Redmayne, aka Jack from Pillars of the Earth, one of the worst book adaptations ever made): I've never had much love for Marius either. Like Cosette, his sickeningly sweet love songs always wanted to make me barf. You're in love suddenly right when your friends need you? Whatever, dude. Anyway, Eddie did a very nice job, and I had pretty low expectations. So, he exceeded them. He even made me like Marius a little, which is saying a lot. Maybe Marius has some redeeming qualities.
Everyone else (Enjolras, Young Cosette, Gavroche): They were all fine. No complaints, they seemed pretty true to what I would expect.
The Songs: I didn't hate the new song. I know it was only put in there just so it could be nominated for an Oscar, and it was fine. But, I honestly wish the Academy would create a category for best Adapted song so that musicals could stop doing that. It's tiring and it meant other songs got removed! "Do You Hear the People Sing" was spot on and PERFECT. AWESOME. "One Day More" is probably my very favorite song, and I liked it, but it was one of the songs that Russell Crowe ruined, and I was in the bathroom for the very beginning (I'm pregnant).
Overall: I thought it was good. I seriously wish Russell Crowe hadn't been cast, as you can tell, but the excellent singing and acting from everyone else made up for it. It was FAR better than the Phantom of the Opera movie a few years ago, and I still give it a solid "see it in the theater" rating.
My Movie Rating scale:
- See it in the theater <-- les="" li="" miserables="">
- Wait for the DVD
- Wait for it to come out on HBO
- Wait for it to come out on network TV with commercials and heavy editing
- Don't watch it at all. Ever. -->
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