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Les Miserables a Review (of the movie)

Posted by thethousandmarch on January 12, 2013 at 2:55 PM

I’m a huge fan of the book and musical Les Miserables – I even named my daughter Cosette. I’ve enjoyed listening to the musical ever since, lonely and depressed, I discovered it as a college freshman. It greatly appeals to my theatrical overly-dramatic self. When I heard a movie was being made I had high hopes. Oh how I was sorely disappointed as I watched the first trailer – not Anne Hathaway, even worse Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. I dislike Hathaway, but I can barely stand to look at Seyfried. I don’t know what it is, but I have a visceral reaction to her. Then there’s Russell Crowe – what was to be expected there?


Now I must admit, I’ve recently discovered I’m not really a hard core fan of the musical. All these years I thought I had the original cast recording, but I did not have the London cast recording, I had the Broadway cast. There are some significant differences. Then there are the 10th and 25th anniversary recordings. Each production is different; songs are added to clarify the story, other parts edited out, and the instrumentation varies. Jessi and I saw the musical at the Queens Theatre in London and I saw the 10th anniversary concert many times back when it was on heavy rotation on PBS (as the 25th anniversary concert is now). I don’t know how I never noticed this before, but I had no idea there were so many versions of the musical.


The movie follows this tradition of reworking the musical. There are new songs, new lyrics, parts edited out. Thankfully the synths are finally completely gone. And for a musical that was once completely sung through there’s a substantial amount of talking. I must say this is the best version so far. Starting from the original, the added songs in the subsequent revisions help to enrich the story, bringing out more of the complexities of the book. Most of what has been dropped or adjusted is the cheese from the original ‘80’s version. In the film parts of the story can now better be shown and no longer need to be sung. However, there are parts of songs from the original and subsequent revisions which were edited out of the film version that I think should be in, but those are minimal and rather insignificant.


The thing I like most about the film version is the interpretation of the songs. They chose to go more for realism instead of prettiness. I love me some show tune style singing, but the songs are more powerful when they are emotive and raw. Hathaway is great. Seyfried doesn’t ruin the movie, but she needs to seriously dial back the vibrato. Fortunately Isabelle Allen does a good job as the young Cosette. Russell Crowe does a decent job – not great, but not bad. Overall Hugh Jackman does a fantastic job of portraying the complex emotions of the character. There are many wonderful performances in the movie, such as Colm Wilkinson as the bishop and Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier, however it’s Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Samantha Barks as Eponine who steal the spotlight.


I loved this movie; it made me cry multiple times. It’s not perfect, but neither is the play. I love this movie, I love the stage musical and the book, because they tell a beautiful story. I’m very pleased that this musical and now the movie are so popular, because the story introduces, illustrates and reinforces the good news of Jesus and the process of redemption. It is all about law vs. grace, condemnation vs. redemption.


My next post will be a brief analysis of the story of Les Miserables.


Categories: Les Miserables, pop-culture