Ten Thoughts About Les Misérables


Before you read this, I think it’s important that you know a few things. First, I’ve never seen Les Misérables the musical on or off Broadway (I did see the 1998 movie based on Victor Hugo’s novel starring Liam Nesson and Geoffrey Rush). I’m familiar with many of the songs (it was impossible to go to NYU and not hear “I Dreamed A Dream” blasting out of someone’s dorm room) but I’m not one of those people who grew up worshipping it. I’m not a big musical guy in general but while I was in New York for the holidays, almost everyone I hung out with praised this Tom Hooper directed adaptation. It stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. How bad could it be?

  1. The casting of Russell Crowe as Javert (the second biggest role in the film) almost derails the whole thing. Crowe is one of the better actors working today and physically, he is excellent in the role. Unfortunately, he appears to have been cast without anyone discovering how well he could sing. He’s not a bad singer per se. If I was at a karaoke bar and Crowe was singing a David Bowie song, I would think, “Hey, who knew he could sing?” That doesn’t mean I would go home and buy one of his albums on iTunes. He’s not the right kind of singer for this role (or movie). Every time he starts singing, you wait for him to stop. I wonder how hard it was for Hugh Jackman to sing with him and not laugh to himself. It was honestly hard to take the entire film seriously because someone who gets paid a lot of money thought this was a good idea.
  2. I was a little disappointed in Hugh Jackman’s performance as Jean Valjean. I’m a huge fan of his work in general and having heard him sing on several occasions, I had big expectations (so my disappointment is my fault). He brought a lot of intensity to the role (particularly the opening act leading up to “Valjean’s Soliloquy”). He was great when he was just singing a solo but when he had to do recitative, I felt he struggled a bit.
  3. Actually, I wish the film had less recitative and more spoken dialogue in general. It wasn’t executed very well and, especially when it involved Crowe, made me want to laugh inappropriately.
  4. Anne Hathaway’s (Fantine) rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” was worth the price of admission alone. It reminded me of Jennifer Hudson blowing the doors off of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in Dreamgirls. The film is never better than when she is on the screen.
  5. It was great that they recorded the vocals live as opposed to lip-syncing. However, when the film was over, I found myself wishing that they had gone with lip-syncing instead. The fact is some people make funny faces when they are actually singing and there’s nothing you can do about it. I may have chuckled at some of the faces Jackman made.
  6. Then again, I wouldn’t have noticed those faces so much if there weren’t so many closeups. What’s the point of a big budget movie with large sets and elaborate costuming when the viewer spends most of the film focused on one or two faces at a time? I found myself wishing the camera would pull back (especially when I could see Hathaway’s snot).
  7. Because of the excessive closeups, the song at the innkeepers (Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter who looked like she just walked right from the set of Sweeney Todd to this), “Master of the House”, was that much more enjoyable. It wasn’t just the change of tone but the production of the scene was more what I had expected the film to be like.
  8. I wish Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) had been cast as Marius instead of Eddie Redmayne (who was fine). I enjoyed his voice and performance more.
  9. Samantha Barks was great as Éponine. Her singing of “On My Own” was the closest the film came to recapturing Hathway’s performance earlier in the film. As a character, she got a raw deal.
  10. SPOILER ALERT. Did we really need to HEAR Javert’s neck crack when he committed suicide? It seemed a bit excessive.


4 thoughts on “Ten Thoughts About Les Misérables

  1. I didn’t hate Crowe as Javert because I thought his acting performance was the strongest in the film. I do wish they had gone the studio route with the singing though, especially for Crowe.

    I second being disappointed in Jackman’s Valjean. This probably has a lot to do with my first comment. I think Crowe’s Javert is better than Jackman’s Valjean.

    Also, I remember how much I hated the ending of the book and the musical. Too damn long. I love the ending of Les Miserables (1998) instead. Valjean & Javert drive this story, how the hell do they expect to hold my attention once Javert is gone?

    Re: The direction… too much damn camera movement.

  2. Wow, I agree with you on almost all points! Except I actually really enjoyed Hugh Jackman as Valjean – I loved his transformation throughout the film. At the opening scene, during Look Down, I was shocked at how much he didn’t look like Wolverine! 🙂 In general, I can’t stand Anne Hathaway – she bothers me SO MUCH, but she was absolutely unbelievable in this. I also am glad that you picked up that Aaron Tveit would’ve made a better Marius; I think that most people would’ve glossed over that. For me, it was really painful watching Eddie Redmayne …

  3. I agree, Crowe’s voice was not big enough for the role. He certainly didn’t look that tortured before he threw himself off a bridge!
    I can remember thinking while I was watching it, how much longer can I stare at Hugh Jackman’s pores!? I was expecting more big sweeping spectacles like the barricade with all the dead people at the end (What was that?!).
    However their makeup person should win on “Mouth Sore” excellence at all the award shows this year.

  4. I know someone else who was a big fan of Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, but probably not in the way you were.

    Also, what was up with Gavroche accent? I liked the character, but the accent was distracting.

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