Go See It: “Les Misérables”

I’ll admit, though I was excited about the movie of the Broadway version of “Les Misérables,” I was also nervous. I lived through the travesty of “The Phantom Menace,” so I know what the destruction of a treasured pop culture icon looks like. I hoped I wouldn’t be similarly let down by Les Mis.

And, I am happy to report, I was not. Though it was by no means perfect, it was very well done — and emotionally resonant enough that my sister’s purse-pack of tissues got a workout in the final scenes.

Because it’s late and I’m writing this in bed, in the dark (and thus am highly likely to fall asleep while thumb-typing on my phone), I’m going to just share a few bullet points about what I liked… And fewer about what I did not, as I did enjoy it immensely overall.

Things I thought were particularly good:

  • Amanda Seyfried is the first adult Cosette I have ever liked. I have always found her character cloying and underdeveloped, so it was nice to actually have an actress make me feel something for her.
  • (Not to worry. I am still Team Éponine all the way, and thought Samantha Barks was excellent.)
  • Eddie Redmayne was also terrific as Marius, though the film’s ultra-closeups made his mouth look terrifyingly huge. (I instead found myself focusing on his freckles.) Like Cosette, I’ve always found Marius to be a bit of a tool, but Redmayne’s performance made him seem less so,
  • Most of the big group numbers (“Look Down,” “At the End of the Day,” “Do You Hear the People Sing” among others, benefitted from the ability to have a much larger number of people and broader setting than onstage. Only “One Day More” seemed to transition to film awkwardly.
  • I was surprised at how much I liked Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Her version of “I Dreamed a Dream” may not have been the most vocally strong version I’ve ever heard, but it was definitely the most emotionally resonant.
  • Sasha Baron Cohen managed to channel his (often annoying) comedic antics appropriately as Thénardier. Between this and his understated performance in “Hugo,” I am beginning to suspect he can actually act.
  • Things I did not like so much:

  • Russell Crowe was just not up to the vocal demands of playing Javert — who has possibly the best song in the show, “Stars.” His acting was fine, but he couldn’t translate the level of emotion on his face into his voice, and didn’t have any of the power needed for the long notes of Javert’s songs.
  • The super-tight closeups as people sang was not an especially effective technique. It made almost everything seem overwrought, and should probably been saved for the actual emotional high points, rather than every single song.
  • I can’t decide how I feel about Hugh Jackman as Valjean. I love him in general, and think his singing voice is amazing, but there was just something that occasionally just seemed off in his portrayal.
  • I did not like that I could not sing along. I need to find a showing where that would not get me kicked out of the theater.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you loved it, hated it, or are somewhere in between.

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3 thoughts on “Go See It: “Les Misérables”

  1. jon December 28, 2012 / 1:42 am

    absolutely loved it… found russel crowe’s lack of vocal ability a bit distracting, but the overall interpretation of the story was wonderful.

  2. Priya December 28, 2012 / 10:15 am

    Funny. I know you meant to say The Phantom Menace but when I first read this post all I could think of was the film version of the Phantom of the Opera (wince, wince).

  3. Joanne December 28, 2012 / 9:56 pm

    Nope, not gonna…

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