Great White Snark: A Gif-Heavy Review Of Les Miserables From Someone Who Doesn't Like Musicals And Never Saw This One Til The Movie.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Gif-Heavy Review Of Les Miserables From Someone Who Doesn't Like Musicals And Never Saw This One Til The Movie.

::There will be spoilers.::

Okay, so here's the deal. 

Apart from Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, I actually don't like musicals. So sue me.

That being said, let me explain my history with Les Miserables. 

I knew it was a musical about this
And that's it. Then we did a marching band show in high school featuring the music, and being the complete and utter band geek I was, I tried to read the book so I knew the story to go along with the music. 

For anyone else who's ever tried to read Hugo and failed, you can guess how that went. Also, Les Miserables the book is like, a million pages. So I Sparknoted it. I know all the characters, chapters, plotlines, and important quotations now! 

I am also going to English major hell for admitting that. 

So anyway, we played the show and I vaguely got it. 

Then, for whatever reason, we had to read the part of the book where the priest gives Jean Valjean the candlesticks, I kid you not, like four separate times in high school. I'm not sure why out of the entire book that was the only part they ever made us read (probably because little else is appropriate for a school setting, but it was HIGH school. We all knew what a prostitute was.), but there it is. So I knew all about Jean Valjean and the candlesticks, too. 

Anyway, between my very scant "reading" and knowing the music from the show we did, that was it. I had no desire to ever see the Broadway show because a) the story did nothing for me, b) the book is HUGE so the musical was, I was sure, very long, and c) it's a DEPRESSING story. I mean, it literally translates to "THE MISERABLE." 

Then I saw trailers. And there was the music, but it was so much BIGGER than a 25 piece marching band. And there was Hugh Jackman. And Anne Hathaway, and Russel Crowe, of all people. And it looked big and epic and awesome and I was like

So, naturally, I had to go see it. 


First of all, I have NEVER seen a movie that left me as heartily depressed as I was after that movie. I mean, 4 days later, I was still recovering. And I'd like to see it again, but I don't think I can. Like, it's one of those movies you can watch maybe a couple of times IN YOUR LIFE and then you're like, "Wow, I have got to stop wishing to die." 

So the opening where there's the Work Song and the ship and stuff, I was like: 

Then I heard Russel Crowe singing and I was like:

Then there was all the stuff with the candlesticks, which I could've recited if I'd known how the music went. Then like, fast forward 8 years and we're up to Fantine aka: Anne Hathaway. And it was just a depressing downhill spiral from there. She loses her job, her hair, her teeth, and becomes a prostitute all in about 10 minutes. 

Oh, and then she dies. 

THEN we get to see her orphaned daughter, Cosette, who is also the little girl in the Les Miserables logo or whatever (do musicals have logos? Emblems? What's the proper term here??). And she's all sad and orphaned and is basically Helena Bonham Carter's slave. Everyone thinks "Master of the House" is like, the comic relief, but it was mostly just vulgar and it kind of grossed me out in the movie.

But I will never speak ill of Helena Bonham Carter because she is perfection, so we'll move on.

Valjean-Jackman rescues Cosette, who grows up to be Amanda Seyfried. 

Really, the love story in this movie is about Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman, which was totes okay with me. Russel Crowe stalks him for like, 25 years ruthlessly. They yell. They fight. They try to kill each other. It was beautiful.

THEN, enter the whole second half of the movie, which focuses on a pretty unrelated group of revolutionaries in France. Okay, they're not unrelated. The girl, Eponine (aka: world's most tragic character ever) is Helena Bonham Carter's daughter (in the film), and the guy, Marius, falls in love with Cosette/Amanda Seyfried. So it is all related. Just vaguely, by threads.  

Anyway, this part got boring and my mom and I did a lot of snarking during this bit because it was just like, love triangle between Eponine, Marius, and Cosette, more gayness cat-and-mouse between Valjean-Jackman and Javert-Crowe, and a lot of singing and plotting to start a revolution. 

The problem with revolutions is you need people to show up. Well guess what didn't happen in this story?

Except Marius and Valjean-Jackman  They live by escaping through the sewers. Kind of exactly like the scene in Star Wars where Princess Leia saves everyone on the Death Star by jumping into the garbage chute. Yes I did just compare Les Mis and Star Wars. Don't even.

So blah blah, like a bunch of singing happens. Valjean-Jackman has his final confrontation with Javert-Crowe and lets him go instead of shooting his brains out, and this literally blows Javert-Crowe's mind so much that he can't even handle it and kills himself. But he does it so grossly. He jumps off a building into a reservoir or something and there's an almighty SNAP as his body breaks in half. I was like: 

So then ultimately, Cosette and Marius get married and the pain of losing Cosette causes Valjean-Jackman to lose his will to live. REALLY??
The guy survives 20 years in prison/work camp, evades Javert-Crowe for another 20 years, and he dies of heartbreak?!? SO LAME. 

Then, Fantine-Hathaway's ghost comes to usher him to the other side, where he sees the priest and all the people who died during the failed revolution. I was very bothered that in this version of heaven, Anne Hathaway's hair didn't grow back, and that paradise is basically the revolution. It's not HEAVEN at all! It's a war scene! 

And the movie just ends so abruptly. You spend 2 and a half hours working up to this epic thing and then it's just like "GASPslump" and Jean Valjean's dead and two minutes later, the credits are rolling. I was like:

And when I realized that was it, I was like:

But mostly:

It was just so depressing. There is not one happy moment in the whole thing. Everyone dies. It's dreadful.

Too long didn't read: 

So overall. The acting/singing was pretty good. Hugh Jackman impressed me. So did Anne Hathaway. Amanda Seyfried sounded like a bird, and Russel Crowe basically just barks and yells his lines, but it wasn't horrid. The costumes were nice, I guess. Everyone looked duly filthy and poor and smelly, so the makeup gets props.

Favorite characters had to be Jean Valjean, because he has the ultimate redemption story and I love that crap, and Javert, because he thought he was doing the right thing the whole time, legally and morally. I just wish he hadn't killed himself. I'd respect him a lot more if he'd just accepted that Valjean was both a criminal and a good man and gone on with his life. 

Musically, here's the deal. There are the few songs that everyone knows that are really good (Work Song, I Dreamed A Dream, At The End of the Day, Master of the House, On My Own, Can You Hear The People Sing, etc.), but everything in between is just like, disjointed notes being sung. I'm not sure how you'd rehearse for it, because it's so indefinable it'd be hard to read music for it, or pick it up by ear. I think Phantom is superior musically (and I know that's an unpopular opinion, deal with it) just because there are motifs and themes interwoven throughout the whole thing and even the "dialog songs" are very musical. Also, there is a pipe organ. 

Really, my opinion is this: we love the musicals we grew up on. Unless we just like musicals, like the entire cast of Glee. I don't. But I knew the music from Phantom before I even had any idea what the story was about. And the people I know who love Les Mis say the same thing about their lives--their parents loved the show so they grew up around it. I don't know. Overall, it's worth seeing. Just bring prozac/ice cream/whatever antidepressant you prefer . I didn't cry, I just wanted to stop existing after I saw it. The singing wasn't awesome, but it definitely could've been worse. 

And Phantom of the Opera is better, so see that instead if you have a choice. :)

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