It’s here! The moment many a gay have been waiting for, just in time for the holidays! And nothing says Christmas like the French Revolution set to song, right? The long-running Claude-Michel Schönberg/Alain Boublil mega musical Les Misérables, based on the classic Victor Hugo tome, has now been given the big screen treatment and unleashed upon the masses by director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Now does the film live up to the hype? Or is this one big letdown? Read on!
The Good: This movie musical is unique in that director Hooper has eschewed pre-recorded tracks for live, on-set singing (Yup! There’s no lip-synching here, folks!). This technique works for the most part, giving the actors the liberty to actually focus on the acting. And for much of the cast, this works. Hugh Jackman’s shines both vocally and dramatically as the protagonist Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Fantine, especially during “I Dreamed A Dream” is absolutely heartbreaking. Just give her that damn Oscar already! Other notable cast standouts include Samantha Barks as Eponine, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, and Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn) as Marius, whose vocals and acting ability were all top notch. And be prepared to weep like a baby during Redmayne’s “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables”. Bring lots of tissues!
Also, long time Les Miz fans will be happy to hear the sung-through musical score in its entirety (minus a few edits and song order rearrangements here and there), plus a brand new tune thrown in for good measure!
The Gay: The men of Les Miz. Especially the gorgeous Redmayne. I was swooning the whole time. You may need those tissues to mop up the drool as well as your tears…
Plus it’s a musical. It’s gay by default. Next!
The Bad: This movie is LONG! Now the theatre affords the luxury of an intermission, but here, you don’t get that privilege. You’re in it for the long haul, whether you like it or not. Better skip the big-ass soda if you don’t wanna miss any of the musical action cuz your bladder is screaming at you! You’ve been warned.
While most of the vocal performances were great, Amanda Seyfried’s shrill singing as Cosette was a tad grating on the ears. Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, the Harry Potter series) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) bring much needed comedy relief as the conniving Thérnardiers, but both fell a little flat in their delivery. Speaking of flat, don’t get me started on Russell Crowe’s lamesauce portrayal of Inspector Javert; his vocal performance almost rivaled that of Pierce Brosnan’s god-awful crooning in the big screen ABBA tuner, Mamma Mia! Dreadful.
Hooper’s film style at times seemed really jerky and in your face with all those handheld moments. Give this man a tripod already! And give your actors some space; we don’t need to see up their nostrils all the time. They’re miserable! We get it!
Also, the grandiose nature of this flick really does highlight the flaws of the show, both in script and score. Some of those lyrics are atrocious, and just seem outright ridiculous when sung in a film setting. Here’s the usual Les Miz formula: Big anthemic moment (stand on stage and belt); narrative singing (set/scene change); Another big anthemic moment; more narrative singing. Lather, rinse, repeat several times over two acts. Add big Broadway finish. End of show. Now since the movie essentially takes the show and gives it the splashy Hollywood treatment, the stand and sing moments just seem awkward and out of place. Many songs also surprisingly seemed undersung and robbed of their power since they were meant to be those grand stage moments.
And really, if you’re suffering that much, do you really want to sing? I guess whistling a tune helps beat depression…
The Fugly: Well, like the title suggests, this movie serves up the grittiness of the French Revolution and 19th-century France, and it ain’t pretty. It’s downright dirty, as in soil, mud and raw sewage dirty. This is one filth-laden flick, that’s for sure. I felt the need to shower afterwards just to reaffirm my state of cleanliness!
Plus some of those prostitutes during the “Lovely Ladies” scene looked like they were zombies out of the Thriller video. Yikes! Who in their right minds would ever solicit their services? I know I wouldn’t wanna roll in the hay with those gals, no matter how horny I was.
Melodic or Misérable?: For the most part, the film works. It is epic in scope and an achievement in mixing live singing with cinematography. Now it is debatable if it’s the best film musical to have graced the silver screen; personally I think Chicago or Dreamgirls were just as effective as a movie musical as Les Miz was. I think most fans of the stage show would be happy. Should you go see it? If you hate musicals, avoid it at all costs. But for Jackman’s, Hathaway’s, and Redmayne’s performances alone I say oui.
The Grade: B+