Well hey Internet, hopefully you had a good weekend. Mine was unseasonably warm and involved the discovery of what might be my new favorite sandwhich store in the world: “Which wich” or Which Witch” or something. Really either one is fine with me. Anyway without further sandwhich conversation here (for once) is exactly what I told you I would be doing today…
Micah Reviews: Les Miserables
Les Miserables was a movie that was HIGHLY anticipated amongst the sort of people who highly anticipate movies about French people. Which is to say: a lot more people than I thought it would be. I went into it knowing almost nothing about it except that it would be sad (the title translates to The Miserable) and that there would be a lot of singing involved. That was about it. Here (in many uncertain terms) is what went down.
Les Miserables opens with its main character (the hilariously double named John Val John (Editor’s note: Micah has little to no regard for French spelling, we’re sorry)) tugging a boat. He is, in fact, a very early example of the modern tugboat: like Theodore, Emily, Foduck, Hank, George etc. (What do you mean no one got that reference?) But John Val(entine) John is not here by choice (who chooses to be a tugboat exactly?) no. He is here because he is a thief. Or was a thief… He thiefed. But (fortunately for we the audience) this is his last day of imprisonment and Johnny Val Johnny is sent off by the head of the prison (a lovely man named Javert.)
Several years later, we catch up with Johnson V. Johnson and he is the Mayor of a small French town called “Fries” (not actually). Here he meets the tragically enisckened Fantine who tells him she has a daughter named “Cosette” and then she dies. Val John decides to go and adopt the daughter but not before he is confronted by Javert who (as it turns out) has abdicated his position as King of the Tugboats (and who can blame him) and has been looking for Valley Johnny who disappeared many years ago when Val John changed his name and grew some hair.
John escapes Javert, adopts Cosette, and moves to Paris where he spends the next many years doing something or other. (I promise I’m skipping HUGE parts of the story. Les Mis is nothing if not long and complicated.) Cosette (now a girl with huge eyes and the IQ of a grapefruit) falls in love with Mario and—wait I mean Marius, after the two of them share what could only be described as “a two second eye contact exchange.”
Marius meanwhile has a hot, attractive, caring, smart, intelligent, hot, hot friend named Eponine who he ignores because he is (if such a thing is possible) dumber than Cosette. Also, Marius is a revolutionary who thinks that he and his twenty college friends will take on the entire French government because:… umm… Baguettes?
Anyway the revolution begins and promptly fails catastrophically do to the fact that no one actually revolts except Marius, some really dumb people, Eponine (badly disguised as a boy), and a seven year old who is promptly murdered for reasons that are never totally clear. But Val John saves Marius, spares the life of Javert, and frolicks around in the French sewers thus finally introducing Marius to something less intelligent then he is.
Cosette and Marius get married. Johnny V. and Javert have one last stand off, and in the end we are transported to Heaven which I really REALLY hope does not turn out to be revolutionary era France. No offence.
On the whole I really liked Les Mis (as all the cool people call it). The story was engaging, the setting and characters were interesting and I really really enjoyed most of the singing. A very special note needs to be given to Anne Hathaway (who played Fantine and very deservedly just won a Golden Globe for it) and to Samantha Barks (who played Eponine.) I really enjoyed their characters screen time (enjoy might not be the right word for Fantine but… you know what I mean) and thought their respective solos were definitely the movies high point.
Les Mis certainly lives up to its “epic” tag, as the set pieces, battle scenes, and musical numbers are huge and sweeping in scope. I enjoyed all of them immensely and really thought Tom Hooper brought the emotions home with each of them in turn.
One of the big “new things” with Les Miserables was that all the music was recorded live while the filming was going on (instead of in the sound studio.) I thought on the whole it worked really well. I think it let the actors really connect to what they were doing and added a lot of emotional punch to each of the songs. No matter what I talk about a paragraph from now in the “cons” sections I really think the experiment worked.
Back to that singy thing. I think it worked, I think the actors connected really well to the music. That said, it did have some unfortunate side effects. The singing isn’t all A+ work like you would get in a sound studio. Hugh Jackmen (who played Johnny John Val) was probably the most noticeable of those who struggled as certain of his songs fell flat at points. Also, across the board (With the exceptions of Hathaway and Barks) the camera sometimes caught some very unattractive faces and habits coming from actors who couldn’t be worried about how they looked while they were singing. Once again, I totally thought that it worked, but there were downsides.
My main gripe with the movie is that the first half (mainly focused on Hugh Jackmen and Russel Crowe (who played Javert)) was awesome and really had my interest. The second half (mainly focused on Cosset (As played by the ever emotionally detached Amanda Seyfriend) and Marius) was a lot less engaging. I didn’t like either character and REALLY didn’t care what happened to them… at all. This is not (believe it or not) entirely Seyfried’s fault as her character is about as two dimensional as they come. The love story between the two of them just never stuck and I just never cared.
I really was thrown by some of the opera-yness of the movie. I really like the “songs” but the parts in between the songs where people were going “I’ll take care of this” or “Can you come over here” in this weird sort of half-talking half-singing thing were just… weird, and the transition between those sections and the actual songs was SUPER jarring, more so than if the characters just, ya know, talked.
Finally (and this is by far my smallest gripe) Les Mis just feels long. It’s not a movie that tries to mix it up or change pace or relieve tension. It’s a constant plodding pace of depression. Like a really sad mostly dead horse. It didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of it, but neither did it really enhance it. I guess I just never ever had that “hope that everything will be all right” that keeps the audience going. Les Mis is a long depressing story that makes sure you remember how long and depressing it is.
I really liked Les Mis. It was a sweeping epic with great music, a gripping (if plodding) story, and some great acting performances. Is it a perfect movie? No. But it is a good movie that I definitely recommend. I give it 4 John Val Johns, out of 5.
Thanks for reading everyone! Check back Thursday afternoon when I talk about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Rabbit. I mean Journey. Unexpected Journey.