Les Misérables – Review

tt1707386Les Misérables – Review

Film Review by FilmFellaJames – 7/10

This is a tricky review to write, I can tell ya.  The problem with Les Misérables, is that the material is HUGELY popular and offending the masses, (as seen during the June Rebellion scenes in this the big screen movie version of a HUGELY popular big theatre musical version based loosely on a novel by Victor Hugo.) is not generally considered to be a good plan.

However, nowadays the masses are online, surfing the internet rather than huddled together in darkened corners shivering in emotional pain during a tremendous upheaval in Frances’ history circa 1832 and they are usually sat down in comfort while venting their dissatisfaction, like this guy… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDmUtkqjZhY definitely not like these guys…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmaTNf4YhEs.  Anyway what you are then left with is a choice.  Slate this film for its numerous and obvious yet forgiveable flaws, or go with it and be teleported into a time where honour, passion and love were on fire like the barricades that illuminated Paris back in the day.  I’m gonna do both.

Tom Hooper follows up his triumphant Kings Speech with this blockbuster interpretation of Les Misérables, a musical.  First of all, nice one Tom.

The story follows Jean Valjean, Hugh “The Wolverine” Jackman, as he evades capture and re-imprisonment after skipping bail under the watch of a cop with a hard on for him named Javert, inexplicably chosen Russell “Gladiator Maximus” Crowe, straining his way through the music score in this one.  During his run from the law, Jean Valjean (and yes it is a fun name to say, I like it.) encounters a discarded stray named Fantine, Anne Hathaway, who has turned to prostitution immediately following loss of employment in a shitty factory filled with bitchy assholes and potential sex offender.  The reason why she turns immediately to prostitution, immediately following a terrible haircut and reckless unnecessary tooth removal, lies in the existence of a child she left in the care of two thieves/child abusers, Thenardier – Sacha Baron Cohen and Madame Thenardier, Helena Bonham Carter – on loan from Tim Burtons Sweeney Todd, whom she has to pay as babysitters to her daughter Cosette, now that’s stress.  If you think it’s emotional already, you’re in for one hell of a ride.

The misery is then compounded when after discovering the immediately dying Fantine, Jean Valjean then makes a promise immediately to care for the child, having taken pity on Fantines obvious immediate plight.  Immediately after that, Javert encounters Jean and the game of cat and mouse begins again.  Jean Valjean now on the run again from Javert with Fantines’ daughter, Cosette, he must seek refuge and re-think his plan, like immediately.  I figured he would get some distance between himself and Javert but if I followed the story correctly, he instead moved down the street to the outskirts of town and became world hide and seek champion for nine years.  Well played Jean but good grief Javert, what the hell kind of cop are you?  After all Jean Valjean even tries his hand at being mayor of a whole town for a while until pure coincidence leads Javert to his home on military request.  It’s like a Greek tragedy.  Except, French.  It ain’t over yet either folks but lets just cut 157 minutes short and say that after all that emotion, you have a speedy love story blossom and wilt in a matter of days when Cosette falls immediately in love with one of the student leaders of the Paris uprising, Marius, Eddy Redmayne, who falls immediately in love with her just as he is finalising the plans for the barricade rebellion that he and his vocally superb student pals have spent the whole term on.  Then you have a little cockney fella named Gavroche, Daniel Huttlestone – brilliant.  He takes a bullet for the resistance straight in chest – booooooo.  All n all, it’s a bloody sad story.

Is it any good then?  I hear you cry.  Yes it’s goddam brilliant I answer vocally in tight harmony.  The opening scene with Wolverine, I mean Jean Valjean, was gargantuan and enthralling.  Pulling the ship was amazing visually and complimented by the track Look Down, I think its called, with its booming orchestrations and low toned slaves.  In fact the music is sublime the whole way through, which was a relief because living with a fan who has Les Mis music on all the time from various versions of the stage play that she owns, getting that part right was essential.  It’s great on stage and it’s great in this, nice one music guys.

Hugh Jackman “on the pull” as Jean Valjean

Hugh Jackman “on the pull” as Jean Valjean

The other thing I liked about this movie version was how it looked.  Set and costume departments, take a bow.  You guys were awesome.  It looked astounding in every aspect.  Light communicating themes of god and hope with dark tones shaping the sinister drama that underpins the whole story.  The cast were great as well but the three leads that really stood out for me were Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.  The rest of the cast were auto-rans and were obviously chosen for their vocal craft, they all did a fine job don’t get me wrong but they weren’t a patch on the three heavyweights I mentioned.  For starters lets talk about Anne.  Good grief, I didn’t think she was up to this part, the ‘I dreamed a dream’ scene was in my opinion a make or break performance for this Hollywood starlet but she absolutely nailed it and for the small amount of time that she was in the picture she utterly and totally captivated the audience in a way I have not seen since Michael Clarke Duncan bought it in the Green Mile.  People around me were crying, audibly, as Anne strained to keep it together during her live on screen performance.

Helena struggles to remember when she left her bra

Helena struggles to remember when she left her bra

Anne Hathaway – Unhappy with new haircut

Anne Hathaway – Unhappy with new haircut

What do I mean by Live On Screen Performance?  Well this was because the actors sang live to the the track and weren’t dubbed over in post by cast recording.  It was this element of the film that really sold me on Wolverines, sorry Jean Valjeans plight, as Hugh belts out a few of the audience favourites as well, even if at some points it sounded like he had stubbed his cock on his adamantium claws.  Hugh Jackman was a superb Jean Valjean, something I already knew he would be after listening to him sing in my daughters DVD of Happy Feet.  Hugh got game.  Russell however was good not because his singing was good, lets be honest, compared to the others in this movie, it was ass, but he counterbalanced a good shot at it with emotion played out in the other ways Russ acts.  He got charisma and watch-ability and his star presence in this is felt.  He also does a great job as a second rate inspector Clouseau, second rate because despite Jean never being too far away, Javert still couldn’t find him.  If Jean had emigrated to Australia, lol, Javert would have been none the wiser.  It’s at this point that we shall have a short intermission, as the second act to this review comes next.

I get that this is an adaptation of a stage play and loosely around a book, but for me the story was one of the hardest elements to accept.  It’s a bit silly and convenient, especially the love story between Cosette, Amanda Seyfried, Eponine, Samantha Banks and Marius.

“On my command...Unleash Hell.”

“On my command…Unleash Hell.”

The interesting part of this love triangle is Eponines’ story.  It’s complex and her love is certainly not returned by Marius. But in the film and on stage, no real time is devoted to exploring that.  Banks in this however, showed devotion and longing as the character Eponine, one of the stories more tragic figures who makes the ultimate sacrifice for the one she loves by offering up her own life so that he, bloody Marius, could live on.  Cosette as played by Amanda Seyfried was a character that I felt no connection to at all.  Her shrill high pitched delivery came across awkwardly at times and as a result she stood out like a second rate version of Disney’s Snow White, Adriana Caselotti.  I’m not gonna lie Amanda, I was uncomfortable watching you perform in this.  Anne will get the award.  Not you.  Ha ha.

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Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, not as good as…Adriana Caselottie from Snow White (below).

I also did not like the way Jean Valjean immediately poured his soul out over Marius as the man he must save for his adopted daughters sake.  I’m a Dad.  I ain’t dragging some wounded five minute potential boyfriend for my kid through a sewer just so he can later plunder her chastity.  My daughters are gonna travel the world or go to college when they are 18 not fawn over some bloke.  Especially when I introduce potential boyfriends to my Desert Eagle point Five O.  If I had money like Val, I would have got the hell outta dodge when she was little and got her an education instead of having to plead to an already over-worked God to hear my prayers and bring him, Marius, home.  Fuck that noise Val, where’s yo head at bruv??  Anyway, labouring on these points will drive you mad.

Untitled15The trick to watching a long long long film like this is to just go with it.  I reckon if they gave this material to someone else and cut out the musicality of it all, with a bit of fleshing out and real explanation, that version would fail to hit the mark with the target audience.  The Les Mis fans, crazy fans like this…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Iugqi64Vc.

The point to this whole Les Miserable phenomenon is that it’s not really about the story, it’s the emotion and the feeling behind it that captures audiences hearts.  The Oscar people will go mental for it…check these:

  1. https://thefilmfellas.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/oscars-2013-and-the-nominations-are/#more-2437.
  2. https://thefilmfellas.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/nominations-for-the-2013-bafta-awards/#more-2408.
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Dr Richard Kimble from the movie, The Fugitive: “Jean, take it from me, you’re gonna wanna get some distance between yourself and that fuckin Javert, do it now you hear me???”

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Jean: “So you’re saying I should lose the candle sticks?”

In the end, it is not about the misery, it is about the hope.  Love it or hate it, either way this is something that has endured and will continue to endure regardless of mine or anyone else’s opinion because Les Misérables is more than just a play, its more than just a movie, it is a sharing of the human experience.  Might not be your cup of tea if you don’t like musicals, but I do and I thought it was “tre bon!!”

About filmfellajames
Film critic and blogger, part time rap master, loves UNITED!!!

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