Sunday, January 13, 2013

Les Miserables

Have you all seen the new Les Miserables movie yet? I finally got around to it yesterday.

A shot from the final scene:

No, that's not the version you saw? 

That's me playing Eponine in high school. I had previously seen the stage show once (in Seattle or Spokane, I think?), a version with the rotating stage. Absolutely loved the music, and was thrilled when it was chosen as the annual musical my senior year.

I've read the abridged version of the novel once, and the unabridged version once. I made it through it by reading it one summer during college on my lunch breaks and 15-minute morning/afternoon breaks at work; this resulted in short spurts of reading so I didn't get bored by the random, lengthy social commentary, but no long periods of time without getting back to it, so I didn't forget what I had previously read.

Warning: spoilers ahead, if you're not familiar with the storyline. I definitely encourage you to see it though! Overall, I thought it was a very well done adaptation, and for the most part they stayed very true to the stage show.

I thought the casting was great - especially the Thenardiers, Fantine, and Val Jean. I wasn't completely thrilled by Cosette, she seemed a bit, superficial, I guess? Her singing seemed a bit light. I also liked Marius (and the rest of the revolutionaries) and Eponine. 

I was pleasantly surprised by Russell Crowe as Javert. I've seen some negative reviews of his performance, and certainly his singing abilities didn't seem quite on par with the rest of the cast. However, comments that he was flat or stiff - well, whether or not that was intentional, I think it works very well with the character. Come on, the guy commits suicide because he can't forgive himself for breaking the rules. He's not exactly the same kind of emotional and passionate person that most of the characters are.

I'm glad they kept all the dialogue as singing, and they didn't cut too much, although there were some song intros that I wish had been there, such as to On My Own - it's not that you're missing out on any crucial points, but I think it does add something when it's there.
And now I'm all alone again, no where to turn, no one to go to, without a home, without a friend to say hello to. And now the night is near, now I can make believe he's here.
Sometimes I walk alone at night, when everybody else is sleeping. I think of him and then I'm happy with the company I'm keeping. The city goes bed, and I can live inside my head.
I'm still unsure how I feel about the new song, Suddenly. I found this video explaining (allegedly) why it was added:

Granted it has been several years since I read the book, but I take slight issue with the claim that Val Jean discovered love for the first time when he found Cosette; his original prison sentence was for stealing bread for his sister's family, remember. I may be completely imposing my own thoughts that aren't in the book, but I think that loving Cosette recalled love, that he had previously felt for his sister's children, that had of course been pushed down for the 19 years he was imprisoned. It was still a crucial turning point, but I don't completely agree with the discussion in the video.

I'm afraid it was added primarily for the opportunity of another Oscar (and at least it did get nominated for best original song, so it wasn't completely for nought), but that seems like a ludicrous reason to mess with a classic musical. If you want to put your own stamp on it, ok, but don't change it up just for recognition.

It felt out of place to me, the music didn't feel like it was quite the right style to fit in with the rest of the music. But every other song is so familiar to me (I didn't sing along, to my friend Jessica's relief, but I could have!), so perhaps it felt wrong solely because I didn't know it? It didn't stand out as much as I had feared.

Although there have been many movie adaptions of Les Miserables (I assume some with singing), my understanding is that this is the first one that is truly a version of the stage show, the first one that is truly Les Mis, The Musical. As someone who spent many years with the Broadway soundtrack in my CD collection, the opportunity to watch the musical whenever I please is welcomed! The changes made are simply a given with any adaption of a show; you'd have to put up with the director's own touch in any version, on stage or on film. 


  1. WOW. I never would have recognized you. Next time we watch Les Mis not in a theatre, we'll sing along. :-)

    1. When it's out on DVD I will definitely be hosting a Les Mis sing-along party.


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