A few days ago I went to see the movie Les Misérables, going into it having no idea of what it was about, but being familiar with some of the music in it. Yesterday at lunch someone asked me if I liked it, and I responded “I don’t know”.
Just to get this out of the way, I’m not mentioning the names of any characters because, truthfully, I only remember the name of one of them, Cosette, and I’m not in the mood to go looking them all up. So go with me here as I give a synopsis, then opinion, about this film.
The title stands for “the miserable ones”, and man, did that turn out to be true. About 25 minutes in I leaned over to a young lady I consider as my niece and said “Wow, this is depressing”. Her response was “it gets worse”. As I stated earlier I knew it was a musical, and the only other musical I’ve paid money to go see was Phantom of the Opera, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and also didn’t know what the story was about before I went, though I knew all the music.
Overall this is the tale of a guy who’s finally released from a penal detention in France after 20 years because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, makes it on his own until he’s eventually rich. He tries to save a woman that was fired from his factory but she still dies and vows to take care of her child whom she’d left with some sleazy people. He turns himself in when another guy is arrested as him because he’d broken probation 8 years earlier, but runs to find and take care of the girl.
He hides with her about 9 years or so until a bunch of consequences find him hiding once again from Crowe, her falling in love with a young guy she just met, the young guy in the middle of trying to help start another French Revolution, the older guy saving him from being killed so he can get healthy and hook up with the young girl who’s been his daughter for all these years, goes away so his daughter will never know what he did, and then the young guy he saved learns he was saved by the older guy (he never knew), tells the daughter about it on their wedding day (along with the older guy’s background, which he never divulged to her), and they rush to the convent (I never knew men could be in a convent) where the older guy’s character is dying, dies and meets up with all the other people in the movie who died; whew!
The older guy is played by Hugh Jackman of Wolverine fame, and he actually goes through about 20 years of aging or so in the movie. He’s a credible singer, a Broadway guy, and he has the major part in this flick. The guy who gives him the “I’ll be watching you” speech is played by Russell Crowe. My wife would say he’s a “talking singer”, and I’ll go with that assessment. He had to be there because of his acting more than his singing, but truthfully I wasn’t overly impressed with his acting in this one. Actually, I’d never seen him in anything else that I could think of, and maybe this is why.
Anne Hathaway plays the woman who was fired from Jackman’s factory, and then whose life went into a major spiral, selling everything, having her hair cut, and becoming a prostitute. I knew the song “I Dreamed A Dream” pretty well, or so I thought, but seeing it performed in this movie the way they did it… this woman wins Best Supporting Actress, hands down! I have a much deeper appreciation for what this song was about.
The comic relief in the movie was handled by Helena Bonham Carter of Harry Potter and many other movies fame and Sacha Baron Cohen of Barat fame; he was unrecognizable to me and I only knew it was him when the credits came up. I hated them immensely, which probably means they did a good job.
Two people played Cosette, one as a young girl, then as an older girl Amanda Siegfried. Her singing was passable but nothing outstanding. Someone who I felt was really outstanding was Samantha Barks, whom I didn’t know but it turns out she’s also a Broadway star in her own right, and hot as well, even though she wasn’t supposed to be.
The guy who played the young man who Cosette falls in love with… don’t care, and that’s a shame. Truthfully, the student revolutionary piece kind of threw me off from the rest of the story, and the only part that actually made me care was when this young boy was killed by the French army on purpose; that was pretty cold.
One last thing before I move on. Crowe’s character, Mr. Law and Order, decides near the end to let Jackman’s character get a pass while he’s trying to save the young guy because Jackman had let his own life go when he could have killed him. Crowe’s character sees this as a flaw in himself and he jumps off a bridge to kill himself. What I didn’t expect was that they actually showed the body hitting the ground, half on the ground and half in water; I wasn’t prepared for that in this type of movie, and I have to admit I didn’t like it.
Overall review? There was a lot going on yet they kept it all together pretty well. I could have done without the revolution part but without it we’d have lost this one great song and I guess a purpose for Jackman to go try to save this kid. I wasn’t ever sure I cared about anyone in the movie until Jackman’s character was about to die. I almost cried, though I didn’t, but a lot of other people did; sniffles were everywhere, and I couldn’t blame any of them. It’s hard to say I enjoyed such a depressing movie but it did touch me. Since this isn’t normally the type of movie overall that I’d even watch, I’m not quite sure how to process it.
It touched me in a couple of places on an emotional level; I’ll own up to that. I liked the music but didn’t like what the director did. The shot the music “live” rather than in a studio, and to do it many of the music scenes were closeups, and I kept wishing they’d pull the camera back as that made me uncomfortable.
I’ll say this then. If you like musicals definitely go see this. If you like to cry, give it a shot. If you like happy endings, this ain’t it. This isn’t a bad movie, but I didn’t hear a single person saying as we were walking out “that was fantastic”. I think we were all too depressed. 🙂
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