Les Miserables (2012)


Now Prisoner 24601, Your Time is Up and Your Parole’s Begun.

Les Miserables (2012)My friend Ashley Janet is not very good at requesting movies.  She told me I should watch this movie a while ago, and I told her (as I tell everyone) to make sure to request it on my Facebook Fanpage.  27 years later, lying on my deathbed, I received a request.  I had very little time – as the Reaper grew near – to meet this request.  I had my great, great grandchild run to a RedBox and pick up a chip that I installed in my futuristic eyeball player (I assume that’s what’s going to happen in the future).  Thankfully, after watching the movie, I welcomed the sweet release that the Reaper brought, so everything seemed to work out.  Did I want to die after watching the movie because it was so depressing, or because it was bad?  Or are they one and the same?  Let’s find out as I review Les Misérables, from a musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which is itself based on a novel by Victor Hugo, written for the screen by William Nicholson and Herbert Kretzmer, directed by Tom Hooper, and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks, Isabelle Allen, and Aaron Tveit.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is a slave in a prison where he’s serving a 19-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child.  He’s released on his parole by the prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe), but finds it impossible to find work or shelter because of his criminal background, but he finds sanctuary with the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) and in doing so adopts Christianity and changes his identity to start a new life.  Javert devotes his life to bringing Valjean back to justice.  But he’s not that good at it because eight years later, Valjean is a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.  A young lady named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is working at his factory, but is fired by Valjean’s foreman because she has an illegitimate daughter named Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who is in the care of the unscrupulous  Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).  Fantine eventually resorts to prostitution, where she is found by Valjean, who then learns that he is (kind of) the cause of her predicament.  Then she dies and Valjean collects Cosette to raise her in her mother’s stead.  Nine years later and Javert still hasn’t caught Valjean.  Cosette is now Amanda Seyfried, and she falls in love with Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) at first sight.  He loves her back … and her front, I assume.  The daughter of the Thénardiers, Éponine (Samantha Barks) is in love with Marius.  Marius is also in love with France, and is a member of a group of revolutionaries that blah blah blah sad things.  The end.

Man, I was beginning to get bored of my own summation there.  I was not a fan of this movie, but it’s not to say there are not things within this movie that are to be respected.  I was not really surprised by any part of the story.  There is a chance I’ve seen this in musical form before, but if I have, I have no recollection of it.  I think I was more able to predict the story by just thinking about what the most melodramatic thing that could happen was, and then that would usually happen.  It was comforting, at least, that the ending was vaguely happy, at least in comparison to the rest of the movie.  Well, Cosette probably wasn’t too fond of the way it ended, but it was a bit of a relief for me.  Of course, I may not have really realized what was going on half the time because they sang 98% of their dialogue, making it much harder for me to just listen to what they’re saying.  One thing I did understand is when Valjean asked the young Cosette what her name was and she responded, “I’m cold Cosette.”  I asked your name, bitch.  Not for your name and temperature.  You think you’re updating your Facebook status or something?

The biggest problems I had with this movie was with the directing and the singing, which is not a good sign because this is a movie and a musical.  First off, they sing way too goddamn much.  I’ve generally hated musicals, and this is usually the reason.  They have to sing everything!  They have small talk in musical form!  Like the song that the poor people sing after they jump forward 8 years in the story where they sing about being poor and downtrodden.  I can see that.  You’re all dirty and diseased.  You could just pan the camera over those people and I’d know what that song laid out for me.  I really do feel like I’d like this movie much more if they just sang the few songs that didn’t just sound like people were chatting while autotuned.  Of course, then I had the problems with the director to deal with.  Every time someone in the movie was singing, he seemed to forget that he had the ability to move the camera or make something happen on screen.  You wouldn’t really even need a camera operator for most of this movie because you could just set up a camera mount on the actor’s belt and let him or her film themselves.  They were all just shots of the people’s faces anyway.  And I understand why he did it in some ways.  I heard lots of stories about how the people in this movie actually sang live on the set and didn’t get dubbed over later.  First off, I don’t care.  Second off, you don’t need to prove it to me by just focusing on their faces whenever they were singing at the detriment of your movie.  And since most of your movie is people singing, you’re going to have a pretty visually boring movie.

I liked the greater majority of the performances in the movie, so it does have that going for it.  Hugh Jackman did a great job.  Not only did he have the singing chops, but he played Jean Valjean throughout the 17 years of the movie very successfully.  From all I had heard of the movie beforehand, I kind of thought that Anne Hathaway was going to be a bigger part of the movie, but she actually dies fairly early on.  On the other hand, she was a motivating factor for the majority of the movie.  And she still kind of managed to steal the movie with her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream”, which was a good song delivered with a lot of passion and emotion.  I’m sure everyone already knows what it looks like because it was most of what I had seen of her part of the movie before I watched it.  If it hadn’t been filmed so boring, I probably could’ve been brought to tears.  I’d definitely say she deserved the accolades she received for that song alone.  I didn’t really understand what people were complaining about with Russell Crowe, though.  I didn’t think he was a mind-blowing singer or anything, but I expected him to be awful from what everyone was saying about him.  He did fine.  I doubt I could do better, and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t either.  And I thought the performance was a good one as well, because I could never tell how I felt about the character.  He was clearly the antagonist of the movie in that he chases the story’s hero to the end of … well the town, because Valjean never seemed to really try to get that far out of Javert’s jurisdiction.  But you also can’t really blame him because dude’s just really good at his job.  On the third hand, maybe there are people that deserve your attention more than a guy that stole a loaf of bread 30 years ago to feed a starving child.  And he’s rich now!  He’s not stealing bread anymore.  There were also some dumb people in this movie.  First, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, who is so dumb and in love with Cosette that he’s oblivious to Éponine’s obvious love for him, so much so that he is totally content to sing about how much he loves Cosette right in front of her.  But he did do an almost Hathaway-esque job performing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” near the end of the movie.  Also dumb is Gavroche, played by Daniel Huttlestone.  What is his motivation for crawling over the barricade and collecting ammo as he sings a song about how badass he is while he gets shot to death?  Possibly the most stupid thing is that Sacha Baron Cohen did this movie instead of Django Unchained.

I didn’t hate Les Misérables, but I didn’t like it either.  I’m just not into musicals, and I’m also not that into depressing movies.  I guess I should’ve known that the movie would be depressing as I was going in, but my French is just so rusty.  I still think the basic core of the movie would’ve worked a lot better on me if they didn’t sing every single menial line in the movie as much as the important ones, and if the director didn’t film most of those singing scenes in a really boring way because he was so impressed with himself and his actors that they were all singing on set.  The performances in the movie were either good or phenomenal, so I’d be impressed too, but I still would’ve recommended moving the camera from time to time.  I would say this movie is worth buying for people that are really into musicals, but for people like me a rental will suffice, if you get so inclined.  Les Misérables gets “You have only done your duty; it’s a minor sin at most” out of “Empty chairs at empty tables, where my friends shall sing no more.”

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2 responses to “Les Miserables (2012)

  1. I don’t get why people don’t think that the movie’s theme wasn’t supposed to be depressing, it totally is – it’s practically in the title “the Miserables”. First, people wanted to revolt b/c they were being oppressed so badly that a single mother turned to prostitution in order to send money for her sick & dying daughter after losing her job. She couldn’t just go to the unemployment or get welfare. Second, it was a war. People killing each other & dying is depressing. Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, Glory…depressing. Third, the oppression was so bad that they made a slave out of a man who stole a loaf of bread. You don’t see Aladdin becoming a slave in Disney’s Aladdin and he stole loaves of bread. I think that if the characters were black then people would accept & get the depressing theme right away.

    I do agree that they didn’t have to sing the whole dialogue. They could’ve did a Disney musical-type & just sang major songs. It was kind-of awkward when the Monsignor started singing about the candlesticks. He could’ve just spoke like the soldiers. But the song by the oppressed civilians was necessary b/c you had to hear the emotions from them not just see it just like the beginning with the prisoners. Which is also the main reason you had to listen to the lyrics of what they were singing, the actors were basically doing monologues. Reason for the close-ups too was b/c you had to see the raw emotion that they feel which is in their faces & eyes. The only one with the mise-en-scenes was when Sasha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter sang “Master of the House”. They had to show us how crooked, thieving, & conniving they were and we’re not gonna be able to tell that by looking at them. I think they could’ve added a few ghostly scenes when Eddie was doing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” like when he looked at the other tables. Well, that’s about what I can say about Les Mis.

    • I was being facetious when I said I didn’t expect it to be depressing. I speaks the French; I know what Les Miserables means. But there’s a difference between Drama and Melodrama, where everything is just over the top depressing and not fun to watch.

      And I still think we don’t need to hear how sad everyone in the town is. I saw it. I saw that times were tough. I didn’t need a song about it.

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