Let me start by warning you that there will be spoilers in this post.
I know the movie hasn’t been in the theaters very long, but it’s based on a book that was first published in 1862, so if you don’t know the story by now, that’s not my fault.
Besides, one of the songs listed on the CD for all the world to see is called “Javert’s Suicide.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens to Javert, now does it?…
So on to the review:
saw the play when I was in college and have been singing the soundtrack pretty much ever since. When I heard they were filming a big screen musical version – starring no less than Wolverine himself – I was wildly excited. My opinion now that i’ve seen it?
Freaking outrageously awesome.
That said, I’m a fan of the story, of the music and of most of the actors. I’m also a huge fan of movies that make me sob like a little child. If you aren’t a fan of these things (especially the last one), then this might not be the movie for you.
After all, the movie is not called Les Wicked Happy People.
I will admit that the movie was not without its flaws:
- The first 20 minutes or so as we watched Hugh Jackman struggle with parole and starvation were a little draggy. Also, the make-up people were a little too generous with the scars they gave him as a prisoner, because I never quite believed he was capable of growing the lovely head of hair he had when we later saw him posing as Monsieur Madeleine.
- I give low points to all of the costumes and make-up, actually, as a bit over the top. Surely not every peasant in France in the 1820s had open, seeping wounds on their lips and hands. Also, the make-up the prostitutes wore was appropriate for a stage production when you wanted to make sure people in the obstructed orchestra seats could see the garish make-up, but it wasn’t really necessary for the film close-ups.
- I’m not a big fan of the Thénardiers. That’s actually not a reflection on Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen who did a very nice job with the roles. I just don’t think camp and physical humor has a place in this story, but that’s my own personal opinion.
- I’m not a fan of Amanda Seyfried. I don’t think she has very much charisma and I couldn’t buy the character of Marius falling in love with her in just one glance. But then, I’ve always rooted for Eponine.
So, enough of the grim and on to the magnificent:
- I must have been living under a rock, because I didn’t realize that the amazing, incomparable and original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, was asked to play the part of the Bishop in the movie version. When I saw him on the screen, I honestly gasped, and this warm little ball of perfect settled in my stomach.
- Anne Hathaway’s version of “I Dreamed a Dream” was sung the way the song should always be sung. This is not the happy tune that makes its way into middle school talent shows. The way she sang the line, “… he took my childhood in his stride…” was raw and ugly and wonderful.
- Russell Crowe was a very good Javert. I’ll grant you that his voice was probably not as strong as the other actors, but I’d heard some bad reviews and wasn’t expecting a great performance from him, but I was pleasantly surprised. He was cold and emotionless, but only because Javert is cold and emotionless throughout most of the story. When we needed to see Crowe’s confusion and passion, it was there.
- Hugh Jackman was amazing. He had the voice, the presence and the performance. I honestly can’t think of another actor with the acting and singing talent to carry such an iconic role.
- Finally, they pulled off a great rendition of my very favorite song, One Day More. It is an ensemble piece where every character is at a crossroads, and they are all looking toward the next day and the fate it will bring them.
To round out my love letter to Les Miserables, take a look at the performance of One Day More at the 10th Anniversary production led by Colm Wilkinson: