January 13, 2014

? ! : Les Miserables 2012

I finally got around to seeing the 2012 movie version of Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman and
Russell Crowe as well as many other big names. I had been anxious to see it when it came out as I am a Les Miserables obsessive. The minute I heard that a new version was coming out I couldn't wait. I made a list of all of the things I was looking forward to seeing and the trailer gave me hope. 

A little risque for the time, the Les Miserables collection has been a massive classic since publication. It was translated into English early and a popular book with Civil War soldiers who considered themselves "miserable ones" as well.

  Dealing with themes of good vs bad, and the humanization of criminals and prostitutes, Hugo questioned the success of the first part of the series, Fantine. While on vacation he is said to have taken part in the shortest conversation ever with his publisher to find out what was going out with the book. While on vacation in 1862, he sent his publisher the telegram message: ? To the response of !     

That's how I felt about the movie rendition. A mix of ??? and !!! 

The trailer really made the movie look awesome. I was ecstatic to see the ship in the trailer. I was so excited that they were going to show the part in the book where Jean Valjean breaks out of prison while saving a man's life whom was caught in the rigging of a ship. I thought this was going to be a brilliant start to the film. If there is one downfall of the musical version, it is that it doesn't go into a lot of the more interesting parts of the books. We don't get much in the way of back story. I was excited to see some of this lesser known material find it's way in.

I was disappointed that they kept to the musical version almost exact. While the scenery was stunning, there wasn't much detail added. We don't ever fully understand the history of any of the characters or the relationships between them.  We do at least see Marius' wealthy grandfather and the accusation that Marius only pretends to be poor. The Thénardiers, the crooked innkeepers, severely underwhelmed me. We don't see their sale of the young Cosette to an old man who seems to take a liking to the little girl. Nor do we see Cosette, the original orphan who lives under the stairs.

If they weren't adding anything to what we've seen from the musical before. I am baffled why they didn't opt to show a more realistic portrayal of 1800s France. Eponine just ripped me out of the story when she entered in her designer dress and very modern hairstyle. (Not that the dress isn't awesome because, let's face it, I'd wear that.)   

Additionally, the vocals and emotions just weren't there. I could accept less than perfect singing if the raw emotions came through. They producers of the movie made a big deal about not remastering or editing the vocals of the singers. My only question is why? I'm disappointed that many of the powerful and emotional notes were spoken or whispered. There was very little strength behind Jackman and Crowe but the rest of the cast were very capable. If prerecording would have made the tracks beautiful and powerful, they should have done it.    

Overall, the movie had highs and lows. As someone familiar with Les Miserables, this adaption didn't really add anything novel.  I enjoyed it and don't think it's a bad rendition. But I also don't think it's fantastic. When you see it, you are awed by the majestic scenery and action but the movie falls short of its epic potential.    

Have you seen it? Did you love it? Hate it?


  1. I agree. I saw it when it came out. The scenery was gorgeous but it didnt look like France to me. As a fan it really didnt add anything new that wasn't already in the musical.

    Amanda C.

  2. I received that video as a Christmas gift, along with tickets to see the musical live. I don't really watch TV, videos or movies much, so I'll have to admit that I removed the outer plastic from the case immediately so that the kids will never no how long it actually takes me to put the disc in the player and commit to watching it. The live version was pretty awesome though, with detail and a pretty decent story line in the program.

  3. I did not love it and did not hate it. I agree that it did not expand on the musical much, and I think it works better as a musical itself - namely, I've watched one of those concert versions, and that was powerful, with the way your mind supplies things in theatre where things are necessarily missing but in an enriching way. In the film, those missing things were already sort of supplied to you, in a way that was not enriching. If that makes sense.


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