My take on the new Les Misérables movie


It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written a post. Now that I have a job where my main function is writing ALL DAY, it’s definitely harder to find time and energy to update regularly.

But the new Les Misérables movie deserves a post of its own.

I’ll warn you now, this will contain spoilers! So if you’re not familiar with the musical or even if you are and still want to be surprised by certain things, I’d stop reading now.

Still here? Good!

Now, if you’ve read my posts or actually know me, you’re probably aware that I’m a judgmental bitch when it comes to versions and adaptations of my favorite musicals. Les Misérables is easily one of my top three favorites (the other two being Phantom of the Opera and Jekyll & Hyde). So hearing they were planning to make a movie version of the musical, I became worried. After all, they tried that with Phantom of the Opera  (the one with Gerard Butler) and it was so terrible that I now refer to it as an abomination, if I refer to it at all. And the last movie that I saw that was based on the novel was also terrible and completely eliminated my favorite character who is rather essential to the plot!

I also freely admit that I have my favorite singers for each role and I’m very biased in favor of them. Which meant that the actors/singers in the new movie had some pretty big shoes to fill in order for me to be impressed.

Yesterday, I had the chance to see the new movie and for the most part, I was impressed. Let me explain some highlights.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine. I wasn’t aware she could sing. Easily the biggest surprise in regards to the actors, at least for me. I was all teary during “I Dreamed a Dream” and the hate on her face at the end of “Lovely Ladies” was brilliant.

Enjolras, Marius and Grantaire. I had listened to Marius on the soundtrack before seeing the movie and I wasn’t that impressed with him. But he definitely grew on me after seeing him perform. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was heart-wrenching. Enjolras and Grantaire were wonderful and their voices are beautiful.

Éponine. So glad they went with this young woman who has sung the part before for the 25th Anniversary and also in the West End production. If they had gone with Taylor Swift I might have boycotted the movie. But this Éponine was wonderfully sweet and perfect for the role.

The happy surprise of Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop! Need I say more?

The Thénardiers. To me, these are hard roles to cast as you need to be a mix of humorous and awful but without making the audience actually hate you. For the movie, I was pleased. They did keep in Thénardier’s constant misremembering of Cosette’s name. That was always one of my favorite parts of the stage show.

Hugh Jackman as Valjean. I’ve heard him sing before and I’ve enjoyed his voice. He doesn’t strike me as a natural high tenor (such as Colm Wilkinson, Gary Morris, Michael Crawford or John Owen-Jones) but he does act very well and he got through the part nicely. “Bring Him Home” felt more strained at the end but it was understandable as to why. One thing that makes me giggle is being a fan of Colm Wilkinson’s eyebrow movements when he sings and seeing that Hugh Jackman has awesome eyebrow movements of his own! Must be a Valjean thing.

Gavroche was frakkin’ adorable.

There were many things that were part of the original novel that were added in and made me grin to see them. The john that Fantine attacks (the one that summons Javert) putting the snow down the back of her dress. That was an element from the book that I was so happy to see in the movie.

Also, the way that Éponine dies is from the book. In the musical, she’s shot as she makes her way up and over the barricade after delivering Marius’ letter to Cosette (which ended up being delivered by Gavroche in the movie).  In the book, and now in the movie, Éponine saves Marius’ life by grabbing a rifle being aimed at him and putting herself in the way. I will say that the movie combined that favorite element from the novel with the sweetness of her death and the song “A Little Fall of Rain”. (in the novel, Marius really doesn’t care about Éponine and is dancing on air the moment she dies and he takes Cosette’s letter. Kind of a heartless bastard) I was sad to see that they shortened the song for the movie but everyone’s reactions were good to see.

The deaths of Enjolras and Grantaire. The way that Grantaire came up the stairs and just walked between the rifles to join his friend. Yep. Sadness. (and a small thrill of joy to see they found a way to drape Enjolras in his death to mirror how he dies across the barricade in the stage show)

Javert pinning the medal onto Gavroche’s dead body. Need I say more?

Bonus of Hadley Fraser as the Army Guard who sings to the students right before the final battle. He’s been involved with Les Mis in various roles and he’s also Raoul from the 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera.

The thunk/crunch. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. When Javert commits suicide, he jumps on the bridge into the Seine. But the movie adds a little extra. The sound of his body striking and taking out some of the top of the first level of the river steps.

Some things that I was not as pleased about were the Cosette. I’ve never liked the character but I can appreciate a well sung part. Judy Kuhn is one of my favorite Cosettes. The movie Cosette had too much vibrato for me to like. At the end of the reprise of heart full of love, I wanted to tape her mouth shut as she hit the high final note. Ouch. Russell Crowe also did an admirable job and it did make him seem less stiff but he still felt just a bit too stiff for my liking.

I understand moving the order of some of the songs but I wasn’t pleased by it. I told you, I’m a judgmental bitch. Along with that, I didn’t like how “The Confrontation” ended. Valjean and Javert should end that angry singing together damn it!

And I wasn’t exactly pleased about them dropping Éponine as the second “angel” at Valjean’s death. I don’t think it would have hurt to have left her and her harmony in there. The movie redeemed itself a bit with the very end and all of the students and those who had died there on the barricade and singing happily.

The song “Dog Eats Dog” is gone completely from the movie. I can understand why, but I still kinda liked that one. “Beggars at the Feast” and the confrontation with Marius were both truncated and I was sad to see them go. “Beggars” is one of those songs that provides comic relief after so much sadness. “Drink With Me” and “Attack on Rue Plumet” were also shortened, to my sadness.

They added in a totally new song called “Suddenly” for Valjean after he takes Cosette from the Thénardiers. I get that they probably added it just to give him a song more suited for his natural singing range, but I would have been happier to have it left out and return some songs to their original lengths.

I do hope they produce a complete soundtrack to the movie. Be warned now, if you look to buy the highlights album which is currently the only version out from the new movie, you’re gonna be missing one extremely important and expected song.

“Do You Hear the People Sing?”

That’s right. It’s not on the highlights album. And if you try to tell me that it’s at the end of the epilogue I’ll know immediately that you’ve never actually listened to the musical before. That’s a reprise of it with kinder lyrics that is always at the end of the epilogue. The version that I mean, and that is on every highlight album of each cast, is the version sung by the students as their rallying cry. And it’s not there.

Overall, as I said, I was pleased with the movie. I cried at several points (which was a good thing) and enjoyed it enough that I’ll probably see it at least one more time in the theaters and then snag it when its available on dvd. It was a good version, definitely better then the “abomination” and worth the price of a regular movie ticket. If you like the musical, you will enjoy this version. Just remember to go in with a semi-open mind and try to remember that no one will live up to your favorites. But these guys do a damn good job.

And that’s coming from a VERY judgmental bitch.


~ by rumielf on January 2, 2013.

5 Responses to “My take on the new Les Misérables movie”

  1. Well said. I’m a Les Mis virgin so perhaps you would be interested in my take on the movie here:

    I love musicals, and feel ashamed when I tell people I never saw Les Mis until the movie came out…

  2. Don’t feel too judgmental, this is a very fair review. I do not know the songs as well as some but found it to be a different experience from watching the stage production- in some ways for the best, in others not. Check out my review

    • LOL. I don’t feel too judgmental. This movie was much better than I had feared. Had it been anything like the Phantom of the Opera movie with Gerard Butler this would have been a much more….scathing…review. 🙂

  3. I bought the CD and that’s where I was disappointed – cause it’s just the track from the movie. Live singing in the show was okay, but I was hoping that a master studio recording existed by this cast.

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