I am a professional actor, and I love Les Miserables. I own multiple cast recordings, I can sing the entire show word-for-word, and Eponine is a bucket-list role for me. So, bros, I am truly the best person to guide you through the crazy hype that is Les Mis.
Most of you are probably reading this because your girlfriend has informed you that you must take her to see this movie "the day after Christmas!"
Don't do it. You will be bored. And this is coming from a super fan.
I was so stoked for this movie! It's an epic story about a criminal whose heart is changed. He becomes a mayor, adopts a daughter, and joins the French Revolution, all while being chased by the police. Here's what I was looking for: an excellent cast, fantastic directing, and a grand scale that only a movie can provide.
In short, I was disappointed.
In long, here's why:
The cast was a mixed bag: Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were passable at best, hard to listen to at worst. There were a few impactful moments but none of the soaring, beautiful, "Wow!" moments that propelled this musical to legend. In general, I felt that Crowe was miscast as Javert (the policeman). It seemed hard for him to act and sing at the same time, and I just didn't hate him the way that I should hate Javert. I know that Hugh Jackman (the criminal) got his start in musical theatre, so I was expecting a lot from him, but he was reaching too much for some of the high tenor notes that should come easily to Jean Val Jean. I love these songs so much and unfortunately there were times that I just wanted them to end! There were a few bright spots, however, Anne Hathaway being the most surprising and most excellent. Her portrayal of Fantine was tragic and inspiring. She brought new life to "I Dreamed a Dream," most of which was shot in one continuous close-up. Gorgeous. I hope she's nominated for it. Daniel Huddlestone as Gavroche (a scrappy little boy) absolutely stole the show! He was endearing and spunky and utterly natural. The last three worth mentioning are Sacha Baron Cohen (Yes, that's Borat), Eddie Redmayne (who played Marius on Broadway), and Samantha Barks (beautiful!). They were all flawless, believable performances.
The directing was also a mixed bag: There were some wonderful sequences, a few beautiful pictures, and some great additions, but they were bogged down by very long close-ups of nearly every solo song. People see movies because they want to see people moving! They don't want to see one long close-up after another! With the exception of "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," I was bored during some of my favorite songs. There were times that I was specifically looking for things in the background because I was tired of the actor's face looming in front of me, emoting.
The show also needed an intermission. Old movie musicals (think Oklahoma!) had intermission breaks in them, and this should have had one too. We needed a chance to stretch our legs and talk about it. I just kept thinking, "this movie is still going on..." and it was only 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Finally, Les Mis also known for it's beautiful staging, choreography, and spectacle: on stage we get gorgeous slow-motion choreography, dramatic reveals, and that famous marching formation. In the movie, I expected the level of artistry that the stage version has. I expected a lot of long shots to show the scope of this revolution, a lot of fancy camera work (think the latest Sherlock Holmes movies), and some fantastic CG. Instead, most of this is shot in a very straightforward manner in mostly mid-shots (and the ever-present close-up, of course). There is no slow-mo camera work and very few artistic "pictures." The CGI seems odd and unrealistic (two butterflies invade a song in the middle of the night).
So bros, here's your game plan:
Suggest that, instead of seeing the movie, you buy her tickets to an actual performance the next time the Broadway show tours to your city. Yes, it will cost more money, but at least BOTH of you will enjoy yourselves! The stage play is much more moving and powerful, better paced and more artistic. If she absolutely must see the movie, she can make it a girls' night!
I am so sorry to report my mixed feelings about this show, but I was expecting a masterpiece. This, sadly, wasn't that.
2 1/2 stars out of 5
Check out more of Laura's writing here.