So I knew I was going to see the new Les Miserables film almost immediately starting the book. I mean, you don’t read a 1,400 page book without some kind of promise of theatrical payout, right?
There were also a lot of movies coming out in succession this winter (Anna Karenina, The Hobbit) that I HAD to see, so I’ve been doing a lot of movie-watching recently. Suffice it to say, I kinda forced myself to record my impressions of Les Mis here because I’m just impression-ed out.
Joel and I saw Les Mis during a crowded matinee the Friday after Christmas. Here’s the cliffnotes of my experiences:
- Like I said before, I have NEVER seen any production of Les Mis, theatrical or on the silver screen. I knew it was a musical. I knew of “I Dreamed a Dream.” I also knew that the new movie was based on the musical – not necessarily the book. What I did not know was that everyone would be singing throughout the entirety of the movie. Seriously. All singing. Now, I appreciate a good musical just like the next person. I am not, however, absolutely batshit crazy over them like some people. And so the constant singing in Les Mis – not my favorite part. I was actually looking forward to the fight scenes so they would just shut up for a few minutes.
- All that being said, I liked the songs! I liked the performances! It’s very cool to see a movie/musical like this, and I did enjoy myself. Notes on the singing though:
- I’ve never been a fan of Hugh Jackman’s voice. Maybe it was just because we listen to him the most as Jean Valjean, but I got tired of him.
- Anne Hathaway has a serious set of pipes on her. Kudos.
- I didn’t think Russell Crowe was a bad Javert, but I can’t shake the feeling that Javert shouldn’t be singing. It was just a bit too…whimsical for someone as deadly serious as Javert.
- Sacha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter = genius casting as the Thenardiers.
- Still, now that it’s been a few days, I do wish the movie had been more of a dramatic retelling of the book, instead of this musical romp through Paris. I know I’m now prejudiced toward the book, but even though the musical did a fair job of hitting on all the important parts, I can’t help but feel there was so much lacking. So much context. So much subtext. Sure, making it a musical makes this VERY long book easier to digest. But you have to leave so much out, Victor Hugo’s socio-cultural commentary just disappears. The sense of history – and all the ramifications of the revolution – goes away. While those parts are oftentimes the hardest parts to slog through while reading, they are what made Les Miserables such an important part of literary history. For example: where is the Battle of Waterloo in the musical/movie? Omitted.
- All in all, an enjoyable experience. Not AS awesome as I was expecting – Anna Karenina was definitely better – but a legitimate and enjoyable adaptation.