First of all, I’d like to thank Google Translate for expressing in French my feelings over the latest film adaptation of Les Miserables, which I recently watched in the cinema.
“I am a little miserable over Les Miserables.”
Now, where to start… Oh my, my. I didn’t know it was going to be an all-out musical. Pardon my ignorance for that. However, as high as my expectations were for this film, I sort of felt… I don’t know, what’s the word for this, short-changed? Just not 100% sold? I mean, I enjoyed it essentially, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from slightly cringing at some parts of the film. I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the previous movie with Liam Neeson playing Jean Valjean. Granted, I haven’t seen the play, which is in itself mostly a musical, that I know. Is it just me? I hope not.
Let me first discuss the parts I actually enjoyed. First, the production, the sets, etc – I give my respect to the director and producers for visually capturing 1800s France. I especially liked the opening scene where Jean Valjean is shown as Prisoner no. 24601, one of thousands who are good as dead with their prison sentences, and in this scene, is shown impossibly tugging on a ginormous ship on to its dock. I swear I did not recognise Hugh Jackman here, he truly looked every part the sullen, dirty, malnourished 18th century prisoner. His eyes effectively showed the emotions of an unfairly imprisoned man, done for only due to a measly piece of bread. I felt exhausted just watching him.
Second, the solo singing scenes of Jean Valjean, Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche – I l-o-o-o-v-e-d them! I was moved to tears when Fantine sang “I Dreamed a Dream”, with Anne Hathaway’s expressive doe eyes, tearfully calling for her daughter, saddened for the good life she never had, nor that which she’d be able to give her child. Now, I can normally hold my tears in the cinema (preferring the non judgemental privacy of my room for any film-related breakdowns), but here I was unconsciously reaching for my wadded up tissue and furiously dabbing at my eyes. Then there was that last scene where Marius and Cosette finally find Jean in his last moments alive. Again, Hugh Jackman’s performance sincerely affected me, his old, tired face a clear reflection of a man who lived a hard, full life, that he was ready to go, he was done with it all. Needless to say, my tear ducts were on overdrive at that point, and thankfully my friend had a whole pack of tissues on hand.
For Eponine’s scene, of course I had to (quietly) hum along as she sang “On My Own”… while walking in the rain. But, really, walking in the rain…? I liked this scene if only for the song, and because the actress was quite good, despite me not knowing who she was. And because, whilst singing in my mind, I was also thinking, “How the hell does she have a waist that tiny?”, which apparently a lot of other people noticed, too. Also, she’s epitomised the definition of “friend zone” as in, “Oh, so your crush called you dude? You’ve so been friend-zoned.” He he. But I digress…
I had to love little’s Gavroche’s cheeky song renditions too, as he smirked and charmingly smiled his way amongst the adult revolutionaries. I loved how his cute British accent showed still through his songs, it truly fit his character.
Of course, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter must be given their due in this post. They probably played the best supporting-to-the-supporting actor and actress, in my eyes.
Now, for the parts I didn’t particularly love… May I start by pointing out how annoying Javert was? I suppose in saying this that Russell Crowe played his part well, being the antagonist and all, but… here’s where I thought the film could’ve perhaps done without the sing-all-your-lines bit. I cringed at his singing scenes, and no thanks to him I was humming “Prisoner 24601” in my head, and then when he was hiding in that corner, singing out his thoughts, as he suddenly recognised Jean Valjean as he helped a poor man off the street…I wanted to tell him off, like “Stop singing already!!! Just say the words aloud!!!” Gah.
Let me make it clear that I’m no film critic, rather just an enthusiast. So if asked, did I like Les Miserables, the nth film version? Sure I did. Did I love it in its entirety? Hmm, maybe not entirely, but it’s still one of those dont-miss-it films of the decade, I should say.