That I could sing my review to you!
Then you would knowwww…
What Les Mis has in store for you!
I don’t know why I bothered to rhyme that, ’cause Les Mis didn’t.
They just sing their lines in rythym
For 2 hours and 40 minutes!
In post-revolutionary France, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released after spending nearly 20 years in prison for stealing bread and trying to escape. Just prior to his release, he has a memorable encounter with the officer realesing him, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). After single handedly hauling a downed flag-mast, Valjean lodges in Javert’s memory… which will come back to haunt him later. Soon after release, Valjean breaks parole and goes on the run. Unable to find honest work due to his criminal past however, Valjean is forced to turn again to thievery.
In an act of kindness, the bishop of a Church that Valjean gets caught stealing from refuses to press charges and instead insists that he gave Valjean the silver he’s been caught with. This show of mercy enables Valjean to begin a new life, under a new identity, funded by the gifted silver. Valjean starts a factory and employs many of the less fortunate in the town he resides in. He even becomes Mayor. Unfortunately for him, one day Javert finds him and recognizes him as a wanted fugitive…
Just as Javert closes in, however, a worker in Valjean’s factory, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is fired unfairly by the foreman there. Despondent and with no alternatives, she turns to prostitution. When Valjean sees her lowly state, he feels responsible and vows to protect her – and her young daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried, once she’s grown). A vow that will last many years. Through being chased by Javert, through revolution, and through the challenges of a young girl growing to be a young woman and falling in love.
This was my first exposure to Les Mis, in spite of its classic stature and numerous iterations over the years. As such, I was very impressed with the character of Jean Valjean and his plight. I was also impressed – very impressed by the performance of Hugh Jackman in that role. Perhaps there’s something more expressive about singing, because there were moments in the film, particularly early, where I was just stunned by how much emotion he was able to convey. He truly did seem a broken, frightened, hopeless man at the start. Anne Hathaway was similarly impressive. She basically puts everything she has into her part, sings her heart out, and will absolutely blow you away. I think she and Jackman are both mortal locks for Academy Award nominations, I can’t even fathom either of them being snubbed.
The rest of the cast represents well, too, for the most part. Crowe is good in what is a more thankless role (although I don’t know that anyone is going to accuse him of being the best singer in the world), and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are fun in providing some much-needed comic relief in the middle of the film as the unscrupulous innkeepers tasked with caring for Cosette.
What I didn’t care for, though, was the third act. First off, it features a new storyline. Jean Valjean and Cosette are reduced to supporting players as a revolutionary tale featuring brand new characters takes over. There’s also an enormous drop off in star power that occurs in this “third wave” of characters that the movie sent. Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne take over the film in the third act, and I was unfamiliar with both of them (its Barks’ first role and Redmayne’s first that I’d have seen). They did fine I suppose, but the “Who the hell are these two?” coupled with the “I thought this movie was about Jean Valjean?” double whammy was a little too much for me to take.
“Sprawl” set in.
I know, I know… that’s the story.
Also, in all honesty, “Les Mis” was much too much singing for me to take. I’m willing to bow out at this point, and say, it’s not my cup of tea, so if constant singing without the structure of songs doesn’t bother you, then feel free to ignore this (in fact, you may want to rush out and see this in that case). But at 2 hours and 40 minutes this was an EPIC length film, and they sing… without form or structure for the most part… all the way through it. In most musicals you have distinct songs that begin and end and have melodies and memorable, discernible choruses, etc… In “Les Mis” it felt like one long, sung, run-on sentence. Songs pop up now and again, I can’t say that there weren’t any, but for the most part it’s just people singing their lines… and I’ll confess, it really wore me down.
“Les Misérables” contains two of the best performances of the year (without a doubt), and has some undeniably powerful and moving moments within. They’re buried in a mountain of “Epic”, though; there’s much too much story to sift through. In a movie that ran too long to hold my interest, they also picked the wrong time to pull away the stars and turn the movie over to the newbies.