Les Miserables

Can you hear the people sing?
"Fight. Dream. Hope. Love."

Hello all, welcome to a very sleepy edition of The Tagline. Tonight I'm going to talk about the recent adaptation of Les Miserables, which modeled itself after the musical rather than the novel (unlike the 1998 adaptation which was less musical) Starring Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, and (weirded out) Russel Crowe as Inspector Javert. For the uninitiated Les Mis focuses primarily on the trials of ex-convict Jean Valjean, as he attempts to redeem himself, having been driven low by circumstance. This tale takes place against the backdrop of 19th century France, and is as much a story about human circumstance at large and the trials of that nation as it is about the specific characters involved in the plot. As a quick rundown (hyper-simplified version of the plot) Fantine is a lady who works in a mill, to pay the scummy innkeepers extorting her in exchange for taking care of (see abusing) her daughter, who was born out of wedlock. Fantine loses her job at a factory when the foreman finds out about her daughter, so she has to resort to prostitution. Eventually she is picked up by Javert for assaulting some guy who was being an ass, but Jean Valjean (who is by then the wealthy mayor of the town thanks to changing his name and the help of a priest who essentially let Valjean rob him) intervenes and saves her, taking her to a hospital because she is dying from hooker diseases or something. Valjean agrees to bring her daughter to him, but before that he is forced to reveal his true identity, blah dee bloo but he escapes from jail anyway, and then takes care of Cosette, Fantine's daughter and.... okay the point is a whole ton of shit happens, if you want to hear the rest of this tale, watch the movie, read the book, watch the other movie with Liam Neeson, see a production of it... it is available to you.

Man, Wolverine doesn't look so good.
So for starters, it's worth saying that I really like Les Miserables, in all its myriad forms. I've read the book (regarded as probably the greatest novel of its century) seen the 1998 movie which I greatly enjoyed (with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush how could you NOT enjoy it?) and I've seen several productions of the musical. This movie adheres more or less precisely to the structure of the musical production, and the performances are all pretty decent, at worst they're still solid. It is apparent that some if not all of the movie is being auto-tuned, which really bugs me out, but still its not like techno LMFAO kind of auto-tuning. 

This guy will never come across as not like a creepy molester.
That being said, I wasn't really wild about this particular iteration of Les Miserables. I enjoy musicals, and I like musical movies pretty well too, but even movies that have ample songs in them tend to have those broken up by non-musical segments. This movie doesn't and while that works fine on the stage, there are huge segments of this film that came across as really forced to me. In particular segments where two characters are basically just talking to each other, only they're singing everything they say, is just a kind of strange thing in a movie, as opposed to on the stage. I'm just left thinking "wow people really like to sing in France, even when they're threatening to murder each other! How peculiar."

In addition to that, some of the scenes are just really hammed up it felt like, and I think that was another element that translated poorly from the stage. Stage actors need to exaggerate their actions a little bit, so that say, the guy in the back of the theater can see what they're doing. When you are digitally enhanced by 7 billion dollar cameras in elaborate sets, that is markedly less necessary. In particular, Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I dreamed a dream" is really banging it out to the cheap seats. only there are no cheap seats, I'm watching this on a TV, and she was being recorded, amplified and auto-tuned. That was a bit much and I don't think it was at all needed. At the same time, watching a musical on DVD rather than seeing it performed life (and HAVING seen it live) made the experience kind of boring in places for me.

So should you see it? That's actually kind of tough. It wasn't terrible, but it was also far from my favorite experience with this story. I think that if you like Les Miserables, and enjoy musicals, it could be worth giving a shot to, you might enjoy it more than me. Otherwise probably just watch the 1998 version, you'll like that better.

That's all for today gang, I'll see you next week, I hope you're as excited for The Host as I am (I always raptly anticipate movies inspired by the works of Stephanie Meyer).


  1. Nice review JB. 99% of the dialogue is sung and honestly, I didn't have too much of a problem with that. Not to say that I didn't get a little tired of the singing at one point, but still the musical scenes were actually as compelling as you could get with a musical or drama for that matter.

    1. Yeah like I said, it wasn't that I thought it was poorly done, I just didn't enjoy the movie/musical as much as I enjoyed either the previous movie, or a musical production of Les Miserables.


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