I want to preface this review by saying that I am a die-hard, life-long Les Miserables fan. I’ve seen the play six times in three different countries and I was one of those disastrously annoying teenagers who blasted the cassette soundtrack 24/7. I know all the words to every song as does my entire family. It’s been our favorite musical for about 20 years so I was more than excited for this movie to blow my mind.
I was not blown. That came out wrong. I was disappointed. Majorly. Let’s start with the pros.
1) Anne Hathaway. Man, I thought I hated you. I thought you were SO annoying and SO blah and disgustingly righteous about your vagina peep show. But man, you were a great fucking Fantine. You broke each word down and performed a stunningly honest reinterpretation of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Most Fantine’s like to show off their clean vibrato on the lengthily held word: “Shame” But no, as the scale rose, your voice broke into a panicked edginess that bordered on a scream and your eyes opened and lifted straight to camera, straight at us, and it was amazing. Bravo VagAnne. I thought you were one of the only parts of the movie to give me, what I call the “Les Mis Heebie Jeebies.”
2) Eddie Redmayne, you’re hot as shit. Oh, and you can sing. And you can act so–well done and call me.
3) Colm Wilkinson aka The Bishop aka The OG Jean Val Jean. If you are a true Les Mis fan then you know Colm Wilkinson was the original Jean val Jean on Broadway and the man who I first saw in the role. To me, Wilkinson IS Jean Val Jean and so I was VERY pleased to see him involved in this movie. I especially liked that The Bishop was included in the last scene and sang my favorite line of the play: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” It felt like a nice tribute and it was well deserved.
1) Tom Hooper–which was a major surprise. I loved “The King’s Speech” and expected to see the same attention paid to editing, pacing and interesting shot selections as that movie. But dude, not every shot has to be an extreme close up with your camera backing up on a dolly. I felt that most of the cuts were absolutely bizarre, sometimes cutting immediately to the next day without any change in pace . Most annoying were the camera angles that were at a constant and unnecessary 45 degree angle and made me feel like we were on a shitty boat for 3 hours.
2) Hugh Jackman. Now, I love Hugh. I do. I think he is so super cute and handsome and talented and always so charming when he goes on Oprah. And I honestly thought he did ok the whole movie. But then came THE SONG. And THE NOTE. When you sing “Bring Him Home” (which is supposed to be an EXTREMELY private and hushed lullaby/prayer) with the anger and volume that you did, you don’t bring anyone home, you just bring shame upon your name. And did you have a sinus infection or what? Why so nasally? And worst of all, we Les Mis freaks all know that top note at the very end of that song: “Bring–him—hoooooooooooome.” Colm Wilkinson sang it so perfectly gently and softly and held the note for so long that it broke all of our hearts. Your version sounded like you just came back from vacation and discovered your DVR was broken and none of your shows had recorded.
3) Amanda Seyfried–not horrible, but your blank face reminded me of a dead fish. No offense.
4) Do I have to even say it? Maximus?!?!? For Shame! For Shame! Let’s be honest here, people. The man cannot sing. I mean we are talking Pierce Brosnan in “Mama Mia” bad. He blandly sang each note with a look of sadness in his eyes like he knew what we knew and what we knew was baaaad. Every note had the same beat and he added no inflection or nuance as if his 8th grade music teacher was just off screen counting the beats “1-2-3-4.” Now, IMO, Javert is one of the great characters on stage. He is so tortured by the severity between justice and injustice that the man KILLS himself. And with poignant lines like: “there is nothing on Earth that we share. It is either Val Jean or Javert” you understand this man only sees in black or white. Russell, instead, was a pudgy shade of “I’m phoning this in” and an amazingly juicy role for the right actor was missed.
4) The Barricades! My room has been messier than those barricades. It was made out of like three chairs and a table top. Come on.
5) Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Yes, I know, you both have three names and are weird but the Thenardiers were neither funny nor enjoyable in this film.
5) Now this might have been just my theater, but I found the music too soft in terms of volume. It almost seemed like it wasn’t recorded on Dolby or something. Just really tinny and weak and I missed hearing the great bass that always shook my seat when I saw it in the theater. Yes, yes, extremely picky but worth mentioning.
So there you have it. The good-the bad and the ugly. I wasn’t disgusted but I wasn’t happy. All in all, it wasn’t Les Terrible…it just wasn’t Les Miserables.