Les Misérables


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Les too much Miserables

I’ll be straightforward. Before seeing the movie, I was under the impression that Les Misérables would be a conventional musical, as in, characters sing their feelings, pause, communicate with spoken words, then sing again. Perhaps throw in a few catchy dances here and there. But apparently the French do musicals differently. Their songs never end.

So I was taken highly off guard when, twenty minutes in, what I assumed had been the first song of the film hadn’t quite finished yet. Hugh Jackman (taking the lead as Jean Valjean) had single-handedly lifted a fallen ship mast, grown a beard Gandalf would be proud of, and traversed all across France looking for work, and he hadn’t taken a single breather the entire time. I suppose it was around then I accepted the film’s harsh, spine-chilling reality: In France, you must be wealthy, well-liked, and lucky in order to survive. Also you can never stop singing.

It isn’t news that all singing had been performed by the actors while filming rather than in a recording studio with the help of editing, and it would be criminal to not appreciate the difficulty of their performances. Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream, a vulnerable, gut-wrenching lament performed as her impoverished character Fantine, was one of the best musical performances I’ve ever seen in a film. I’d be shocked and disappointed if the Best Supporting Actress goes to anyone who isn’t Hathaway. Her Fantine, who had the shortest amount of screen time out of all the major characters (except for Amanda Seyfried’s two or three scenes), by far left the most impression.

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Hathaway’s ballad appeared early in the film, unfair to the literal forty or so subsequent performances that couldn’t hope to top it. Perhaps Eddie Redmayne (Marius)’s Empty Chairs at Empty Tables came in a distant second, and Samantha Barks as Éponine delivering a stunning rendition of On My Own. But there were fifty other songs in the movie as well. None were catchy. Rarely did songs accelerate beyond a smooth and stately adagio pace. And worst of all, very few contained any emotion other than misery. Each performance tried its hardest to evoke emotion out of the audience, competing with one another to see which could create the most waterworks. In the end, they only succeeded in canceling each other out.

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I suppose the dewy music can be accredited to the even more depressing story. During the French revolution, Jean Valjean is released from his nineteen year imprisonment he was sentenced after stealing a loaf of bread, but his jailer, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) changes his mind and makes it his life mission to recapture him. After Javert sings four or five songs about performing his duty, Valjean returns eight years later and becomes mayor of the very town he was once a prisoner in (I’m not exactly sure why, but he probably sang about it somewhere along the way). He helps struggling Fantine, who has resorted to prostitution to support her illegitimate daughter.

Many critics (and outspoken celebrities) panned Crowe’s singing performance, but I’ll be honest – besides Hathaway, I thought he was the best. His tone is buttery and brassy, and dude didn’t break tune even during a freaking sword fight (his opponent was a warbling Jackman, to give credit, but I much preferred Crowe’s crowing).

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Fast forward nine years. Fantine’s daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) grew up with Valjean as her step father, and fell in love with young rebel Marius. The French revolution is by now sweeping the nation, and guess what, everyone’s miserable about it. Meanwhile, after singing a ballad about performing his duty, Javert continues his hunt for Valjean. In retrospect, maybe the reason critics ragged on Crowe was not because of his actual singing, but because of his character’s song subjects.

You see where I’m going with this. Les Mis is not my cup of tea. I prefer a single squirt of lemon juice, NOT AN ENTIRE CUP DROWNING IN THE BITTER FLAVOR. However, I can’t bring myself to disagree with the positive reviews the movie has been getting, either. I understand why this movie is most likely going to score big at the Oscars. Objectively, the singing is a monumental achievement. It’s well-acted. The costuming, make up, sets, everything is extremely well done. The old guys who vote for the Oscars love misery. However, I felt it appropriate to focus on my personal opinion of the film, because this movie isn’t for everyone, and I wanted to send out a warning. I think many will agree.

3/5 stars

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About Logan Krum Movie Reviews

Hi. I’m Logan Krum, now going into my third year of studying journalism at Temple University. I created this blog to help create a portfolio of my work as an entertainment journalist and screenwriter. Though I usually disagree with the Tomato Meter, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on current pop culture movies. I can be contacted at logan.krum@gmail.com.

9 responses to “Les Misérables”

  1. Carin says :

    Could I please get your authorization to share this posting on my Bebo
    and Facebook account?

  2. Adam says :

    Because it is an opera. I personally never got this movie or musical. Too depressing for me. Now the Phantom of the Opera that was a good musical.

  3. Michele Krum says :

    Hi Logan– Yes, you have to like musicals at all to truly enjoy Les Mis. I’m a fan of musicals on stage and in the movies and have to say that this film was a stunning version! I commend this movie for introducing the timeless (the book was written over 150 years ago) to the masses. I didn’t cry during the Broadway production so was unprepared for the impact of the movie on my tear ducts. The stage calls for larger voices and larger performances, however the movie’s intimacy draws the audience in for an unparalleled emotional experience.
    The movie is all about the message, which is just what the movie poster says: Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.
    But you did miss the history lesson. The French Revolution was over in 1799, and the people continued to struggle against their clueless aristocratic rulers in several other rebellions. The movie’s end depicts the June Rebellion of the 1830s.

  4. Kate says :

    I have to disagree with you about Russell Crowe’s singing. While his voice was consistent and strong throughout the movie, he showed little to no emotion. After seeing the movie I thought he was okay. After listening to the soundtrack, I realized that he sounds kind of like a robot. Maybe he was so focused on singing the music exactly how it was written that he didn’t put anything else into it? I think that if he was speaking the lines rather than singing them, he would have put a lot more into it; he would have gotten angry, been sad, etc. While he was technically good, I would say that he was emotionally the worst singer, and he didn’t do very much acting through his songs.

    • Vicky says :

      Actually, when you consider Russell Crowe’s singing in relation to the themes of the story, mercy, justice, and redemption, then his singing is perfect. Javert represents justice; without emotion, or feeling for what is judged. Javert struggles with that and finally can not come to terms with it and ends his life.

  5. Lisa says :

    YO LOGAN. Javert isn’t hunting down ValJean because he changes his mind.. ValJean has to check in for his parole, but doesn’t because he wants to become a new person, so Javert is hunting him for breaking parole. Just sayin.

    • Logan Krum Movie Reviews says :

      YO LISA. Thanks for pointing this out. I’m sure Javert or Valjean sang about it at one point, must have missed it. Maybe this was early on when I was still waiting for them to stop singing. Nonetheless thank you for commenting! I’ll come to the school sometime SOON I promise!

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