Monday, December 31, 2012

A movie review on a humor blog?

[Spoiler Alert: People die in this movie. If you don’t already know who and don’t want to know, you should read something else. Or just go right now and see the movie. I’ll wait.]

I know, a movie review on a humor blog? It doesn't make sense, but it’s my blog so spltttt (that’s how you spell a raspberry sound; look it up if don’t believe me).

The first time I went to see Les Miserables was on a high school date. I had no interest whatsoever in some musical about French poor people. But I walked out of the theater mesmerized. I soon had a pirated copy of the soundtrack ON CASSETTE TAPE (shut up) and then later went legit and bought it on CD. While other teenagers’ parents were banging on their bedroom door telling them to “Turn that awful music down,” my parents were doing the same… it’s just that I was listening to Les Miz, not Ozzy Osbourne.

I saw the musical two more times before I was out of college. I've sang “On My Own” so many times, I could probably sing it backward (I even sang it in a college musical audition – forward – although it didn't land me a part). My dream was to someday play Eponine somewhere, somehow.

In the middle of this Les Miz love, I met Terrence Mann, who played Javert when Les Miz opened on Broadway. He was kind to a bunch of starstruck theater students, endured giggling girls, and made us all feel important. So my Les Miz love was further strengthened.

I can’t say I can sing every note of every song. There were songs I didn’t love, and I tended to skip around to play the ones I could have played a part in (factory worker, prostitute, dying mother, lovestruck girl, dying lovestruck girl…). I don’t own any of the anniversary DVDs, but I have seen the performances in part on TV.
So now you know what kind of fan sat in the audience of the movie tonight.

First off, let me tell you all with great pride that I DID NOT HAVE TO LEAVE THE MOVIE TO PEE. NOT ONCE! Three hours from previews until I applauded at the end and I didn’t miss a note. I’d like to take a moment to thank my doctor and my physical therapist for this accomplishment.

Moving on.

The movie. Looks. Amazing.

So much of my memory of the story was confined to the revolving stage of the late 80s and early 90s. I felt like, with the film, my view was broadened, like someone opened the curtains and let the light in. THIS was what was going on on the other side of the barricade? WOW!

From the first song, I was a bit bothered to realize that the critics were right about one thing: Russell Crowe’s singing voice was not up to par. His acting was good, but his voice, for me, was a distraction. Russell Crowe does not equal Terrence Mann. Not even close. And that’s too bad.

But, otherwise, the actors did not disappoint. Amanda Seyfried, her light, quivering voice was perfect for Cosette. If I had to listen to an album of her singing like that, I might have to poke myself in the eyeball with a fork, but for this film, it worked just fine. There were spots in which I didn't love the timber of Hugh Jackman's voice but really, he did very well. Ann Hathaway… you know, I was ready to dislike her casting because I thought of Fantine as being a bit older, but damn. That woman CAN SING. Holy crap, y’all! Two notes into “I Dreamed a Dream” and I was crying into the napkin I brought from Red Robin for just such an emergency. Her performance was far more riveting than any other of Fantine I have witnessed on CD, TV, or stage.

In the movie medium, everything is so close up. I never saw Fantine’s face before as she drifted through her memories of what she thought her life would be like before everything crashed and burned. But the close ups, they would either make it or break it, and with Ann, she made it up one side and down the other. Beautiful.

The close-up perspective helped me understand the characters in ways I didn’t before. They also made parts of the movie more upsetting. The dramatic deaths of the Revolution soldiers, man. While watching the musical, anyone who sang their way through their death got some tears out of me, but the other deaths, while sad, weren’t as moving (for me). Not so in the film. Seeing the faces of the fallen and their comrades was really upsetting. Gavroche, oh my gosh! Horrible.

I felt like some of the death scenes could have done with a little less drama (do I really NEED to hear a sickening crunch when someone falls to their death?) When an important character dies, I shouldn’t wince and say, “Gross!” But mostly, the close-up views gave me another interesting way to experience the story.

The Thénardiers, well, they were never my favorite part of the musical, but I feel like they were a bit over done in the movie. The characters were believable in the fantasy of theater, but less so under the microscope of film. Plus, what was with Madame Thénardier’s sunglasses in her last scene? Did they even HAVE sunglasses back then? And, if so, were they little John Lennon glasses? DID NOT LIKE.

I read before going in to the movie that Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean, and Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine, had parts in the film. I loved spotting Wilkinson, and I was excited to hear that he can still sing. It was weird seeing him acting with Hugh Jackman in Wilkinson’s former role. I was not able to recognize Ruffelle, whom I think sings like an angel, although the credits listed her as “Whore #1.” I hope that was her choice of role, because otherwise I think that may have been a diss.

My husband, who hates musicals and didn’t know much about Les Miz, found the movie to be fairly OK. But since he doesn’t like “that kind of singing,” he likened the movie to going to a concert when you don’t like the genre of music being performed. “But the story was good,” he says. He just would have preferred it to be all story. Which is kind of hard for, you know, a musical.

If you saw the musical and you didn’t like it, you’re not going to love this film. If you loved the musical, however, I think you won’t be disappointed. I think you’ll see aspects of the story you may have missed in the past. And if you never saw it before, you should go, watch, and make up your own mind. Oh, and bring some tissues.

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  1. Great review!

    I, too, am a huge Les Mis fan! I have seen it 4 times on Broadway! The movie was very good, in my eyes, and I loved that I could see everything up close and understand every word. Loved it!

  2. OMG you met Terrance Mann! Wow! I'm with you on pretty much everything in the film (seen it on stage 5 times). I think the film did it justice, but I'll still go see it on stage and still pop in that 10th anniversary DVD from time to time (go Colm!).

  3. Colm is the man!

    Somewhere I have pictures of Terrence on a little stage talking to a bunch of students, with his late 80s hair....

  4. I am a big fan of stage plays and musicals, having studied drama in school, voice ,dance from the age of 3 until college, and was in the Second City players workshop for a nanosecond. I have no desire to see the film. I prefer stage performances to any movie version of anything. The thought of Russell Crowe singing frightens me. Sorry, I will wait until it makes it to Netflix!

  5. Brenna,
    Hi. Checkout this high school performance of Les Miz at
    It is very good. Ok .. it's not perfect, but it is VERY IMPRESSIVE for high school "kids". The video is of Act 1. I just found Act 2 on YouTube but haven't watched it, yet.If you choose to watch it ... Enjoy.
    Sue Bricker (USDAA member and dog agility enthusiast)