Movie Review: Les Misérables

Les Misérables is my ultimate theatrical passion. I saw it first in 1989. My cousin copied her cassette tape of the entire soundtrack, and I literally wore it out. (My dad fixed it with repair tape three times.) She copied her cassette of the French version for me, as well, and I memorized it phonetically. My family (thank goodness my mom loves it ;-)) was subjected to me singing Les Mis almost every.single.time we got in the car for YEARS. (I am not kidding: about four solid years, interrupted only by interludes of Miss Saigon.) My little brother also knows almost every word, and it's not by his choice. ;-) (Ah, the days before you could ignore your fam with ear buds & iPhone! :-D) I've seen Les Mis twice on Broadway, and I can't quite remember how many touring productions I've seen. "On My Own" was my signature song I performed in almost every talent show I entered & won in middle & high school, including a talent show in my hometown in 10th grade where I went up with now-famous Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers. :-) (Hometown represent! Their talent is undeniable, and their fame is so exciting!) My life's dream before meeting my husband was to play Éponine on Broadway...and yes, I absolutely could have made it. No doubt! :-D Even though God changed my heart and recalibrated my life's dream, [which I am now living, BTW ;-)] my zeal for Éponine and the glorious stage version of Les Misérables still runs so deeply; when I found out the movie was being released on Christmas Day, I knew exactly where my best friend, Wendy, & I would need to be for three hours.

With all that said, take my review with a HYPERCRITICAL grain of salt. :-D Overall: j'adore!!! I *did* enjoy it, and the further I get from my viewing, the more I like it. I was impressed that Russell Crowe could hit Javert's low notes, Amanda Seyfried irritated me less than any other Cosette I've ever seen (Cosette is so wishy washy! :-P), and Helena Bonham Carter & Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers were perfection beyond words! I especially appreciated the actors with connections to the stage show: Gavroche had played the role in the West End, Colm Wilkinson - the original Jean Valjean on Broadway & the West End - plays the Bishop of Digne, and Frances Ruffelle - the original Éponine in the West End & on Broadway - plays a prostitute. It's just beautiful that they're in there. :-)

My few critiques: the stage show transitions the leaps through time so seamlessly - the scrim falls and a new date & location are displayed. Done. I felt like the movie tried too hard to explain these time skips. Maybe it's just b/c I know the story inside & out, but it seemed like they were just working too hard for those transitions to make "more" sense. Also, since I know every word, I was disappointed that they rearranged & shortened quite a few songs - most notably (for me) "A Little Fall of Rain". [Come on! It's my dying moment! ;-)] I totally get that the movie runs over 2.5 hours, and they needed to cut where they could; but I can't imagine that true fans would have minded to get the complete show. :-D Hugh Jackman was solid, but there were a couple moments ("Bring Him Home") where I felt like he was pushing painfully hard, and then more times I wanted him to push more, (although I respect his artistic choices. I can't imagine how hard it must be to make a role your own that is so renowned!) At the barricade: I *loved* that they found a way to preserve Enjolras' dying pose - it seems like a small thing, but it's so iconic! However, I did not like that Gavroche didn't clearly toss the ammunition up to the revolutionaries before succumbing; it made his death look like it was somewhat in vain. I wish Éponine's ghost would have joined with Fantine's to take Valjean to Heaven, (that is my favorite girl harmony in the entire show!!!) but I get that it might have looked weird in the movie, since Valjean & Éponine had no onscreen connection, and the other fallen revolutionaries weren't behind them onstage. My final critique: they added a new song. *le sigh* It's called "Suddenly". And it's fine...but it's not from the original show, and that bothers me.

I am a fan, though, and what I REALLY can't wait for is a sing-along showing, where I can belt my head off with every scene!!! :-D


  1. My family *LOVES, LOVES, LOVES* musicals (and, no surprise, my sis is the theater critic for the Ann Arbor News!). I grew up on Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Sound of Music, Flower Drum Song, Brigadoon, Evita, Phantom, you name it...all the classics. The one that I've *never* seen on screen, read, or watched live is...LES MIS! I'm excited to see the movie, but I feel like I need to read the book first to fully appreciate it (and on a related note re: reading, I am cringing at having to read The Hobbit for book club in a few months...I've never read Tolkien, and I just can't stomach fantasy/sci-fi books anymore...sigh...#firstworldproblems).

  2. I love so many of those - "Evita", "Phantom", etc. I was Louisa in "The Sound of Music", Connie Miller in "1940's Radio Hour", Philia in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", dance captain of "Jesus Christ Superstar", my fave: Sally Bowles in "Cabaret". I LOOOOVE MUSICAL THEATRE!

    And I am sooo curious to hear what someone who hasn't seen the stage show thinks of the movie. If you truly know nothing, though, you really DO need to get familiar with the story (book or synopsis) beforehand. It's the only show where they have a complete plot synopsis printed in every Broadway playbill, b/c it's SUCH an intricate story.

    [PS - I would NEVER read fantasy/sci-fi books! Ewww-o-rama! :-P]


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