Monday, July 1, 2013

Les Miserables 2012: Part One

"It's the story of one who turned from hating... a man who only learned to love when you were in his keeping."
~Jean Valjean, Epilogue
It feels cliche to say I don't know where to begin, but it's the truth.  I waited so long for this movie-- eleven months just for it to be released in theaters, then three more before I actually saw it for myself.  And I'll tell you right now that yes, it was everything I dreamed it would be, and there's no need to go find a new dream (unless the new dream involved seeing the show live on Broadway someday, in which case, yes please).

I suppose the best place to begin would be at the beginning.  After that I shall go on until the end.  Then stop.

{And a warning to all-- this is going to be EXTRAORDINARILY long and RIDICULOUSLY convoluted and CHOCK-FULL of spoilers and UNBELIEVABLY detailed and opinionated because really, blow-by-blow is the only way I can handle Les Mis and you can consider yourself duly warned now. Let all who wish to, go from here.}

The beginning for many people happened when the French flag flashed onto the screen, swirling through green water as the big bum-BUM music began.  And if I had seen Les Mis in the theater, so it would have been for me.  But I saw Les Mis for the first time at home, in my bedroom, and for me the experience began with one voice singing softly and one man's face on the screen as the DVD menu began to play "Do You Hear the People Sing?" in its entirety, accompanied by a montage of scene snippets that gave me goosebumps.

I'm immature.  I screamed.
But quietly, because my younger siblings were getting ready for bed.

Um, anyways.  Once I'd finished fangirling over Enjolras (and everyone else in the menu montage) my sister hit the Play button and that's when the iconic prologue music began and the flag swam upward.

Sure, it was CGI, but I don't care.  The opening scene was breathtaking.  Actually seeing the convicts dragging the ship into the docks was more thrilling than I'd expected it to be-- throughout the whole movie I just couldn't get over how much BIGGER everything was--so much bigger than what I've been accustomed to with the concerts and the stage play.  (Bigger does not equate better.  We'll discuss that more later. But it was still fabulous.)  And the music?  Fabulous.  After hearing about the whole singing-live-with-just-a-piano thing, I was a bit worried that the orchestrations might not be up to snuff, but I was quite wrong and am happy about it-- I would much rather be merry than right.

I intend to go character-by-character through this thing, and since I also intend to go song-by-song, it makes the most sense to begin with Valjean and Javert in "Look Down."

Hugh Jackman is still not my favorite Valjean, but I will say that I've completely gotten over my early prejudice against him.  (My first reactions on seeing a picture of the man they'd cast for Valjean were a)  disappointment that he wasn't Colm Wilkinson and b) annoyance at his appearance. "Too skinny and too movie-star-ish to be a convict.  Definite fail here.")  However.  Hugh Jackman's acting skills are superb, he completely inhabited the role and convinced me that he WAS Jean Valjean (to the point where I've started picturing his face instead of Colm's when I read certain portions of the brick... *hides*) and his interaction with Little Cosette was the cutest thing in the history of cute things.  More on that later.  The only quibble I have is with his voice-- though he was NOT the worst singer in the movie, I was left feeling dissatisfied with the way he handled several of the songs.  To be quite honest, I don't think he was the right vocal match for the part.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that the part of Jean Valjean is one of the most challenging male roles in musical theatre, and though Jackman is a trained singer and has been in quite a few shows, I just don't think his voice is right for Valjean.  "Look Down," wasn't bad, however-- though his voice lacks the raw power that Colm, Gary Morris or even John Owen-Jones bring to the part, he still got all the emotion across despite the lyric changes.  

Oooh, yeah, let's talk about lyric changes, shall we?  Especially where this guy is concerned.  Now, I loved the "retrieve the flag" bit.  It makes so much more sense for the audience to actually SEE Valjean's incredible strength at the beginning of the story, instead of being abruptly informed during "The Runaway Cart," that oh, yeah, this guy tossed ships around back in the day.  Forgot to mention that.  So that was great.  What I did NOT like was the way they cut so abruptly from mast-lifting to song-shouting.  It seemed awkward somehow.  You know how Rex Harrison speak-sings his way through My Fair Lady?  Yeah, well, Russell Crowe shout-sings his way through the dialogue bits.  Yes, I cringed.  Sometimes I giggled.  But in the end... his voice really wasn't that bad.

*scurries into corner*

No, I still don't think his singing was quite up to par.  But it wasn't the atrocity I had been led to believe it would be. And though it's great fun to imitate his part in One Day More, his voice doesn't send horrified chills down my spine the way Nick Jonas' does in the 25th Anniversary Concert.  Stars and Javert's Suicide weren't half bad (from a technical standpoint... we'll discuss the WAY he sang them in a minute), and Confrontation was the bomb (did I actually just say "the bomb" in public??) but the dialogue bits, as previously stated... errrrrmmmmm.  "NOW prisonertwofourSIXohone... your time is UP and your paROLE's begun..."  And what was up with changing the lyrics so they didn't rhyme anymore? "Follow to the letter your itinerry..."

Um, excuse me, what is an itenerry?  Could you possibly have meant itineRARY?

No one bites out "You will stahve again unless you learn the meaning of the lawr," like Philip Quast, but I have to say, Crowe's "and I'm Javert," is classic.  I approve.

Showing Valjean's journey through the mountains of France into the little village of Digne was done beautifully, I thought-- the stage simply can't portray that kind of scenery, and I appreciated the addition of those little scenes showing Valjean's rejection by the people he encountered.  Having the parole officer sending a guy to follow him was excellent, too-- in my first encounter with the story I was super confused as to why Javert was chasing Valjean in the first place and what he had against him.  (I mean, he'd served his time for the bread...)

I was prepared to be Emotionally Involved for the entire movie, of course, and was prepared to cry at the sad parts, but I was not at all prepared to pull an Elsie Dinsmore and burst into an agony of tears and sobs as soon as the Bishop's face showed up on the screen.  

And they included Mme. Magloire and Mlle. Baptistine! Even though they
didn't do anything to advance the story! Yay brick details!

I was so, so impressed with MY Valjean's singing.  I mean, duh, obviously.  Colm Wilkinson has a gorgeous voice.  But he IS a lyric baritone with an amazingly high range and the Bishop has some pretty low notes, so the way he sang that last "for God" was pretty amazing.  The first time I watched this I bewailed the severe lack of Expressive Eyebrows (it's a Colm-Valjean trademark, after all) but on my fourth go-round I paid closer attention and saw them there near the end of the pardoning of Valjean.       Excellent, excellent.   And of course we had the figurative-and-literal passing of the candlesticks... one generation's Valjean to the next.  Sniffle.

I was feeling quite unimpressed with "What Have I Done?" (and those statue-dead-body-thingies lying on the tables in the church were creeeeeeepy) until about halfway through.  I'm used to hearing this song screamed (even Alfie Boe put a tremendous amount of anger into it) and Jackman's use of bewilderment and grief instead of fury at the beginning took a little getting used to.

However, the more I see it, the better I like it.  (Where Les Mis is concerned, actors tend to grow on me.  My sisters can attest to this. :P)  And then he got to the "I feel my shame inside me like a knife" bit and actually started crying, and I was like, yup, this man needs an Oscar, HOW DID HE NOT GET AN OSCAR.  And after that I was Team Hugh Jackman for the rest of the movie.

"At the End of the Day" was chilling-- this film didn't gloss over the grittiness of life in France in the 1820's and 30's,  and the desperation on the beggars' faces and in their voices was evident.  I loved how Javert and the other inspectors were shown during the line about how the righteous hurry past and don't hear the little ones crying-- I'd always thought that line was referring to the wealthy, but it fits Javert so perfectly.  (And sheesh, Russell Crowe can certainly ride a horse.  He should be giving Eddie Redmayne some lessons.  Um, more on that later.)  I do have to wonder if Joly was responsible for the lyric changes though... "and the plague [not winter] is coming on fast, ready to kill!"

It seemed to me in the highly anticipatory weeks and months leading up to my first viewing of the film, that everyone was talking about Anne Hathaway as Fantine.  Anne Hathaway this, Anne Hathaway that, Anne Hathaway has an Oscar, Anne Hathaway cut off all her hair and lost 25 pounds for the part and she threw herself into this role and isn't she perfect and we all bow down to Anne Hathaway.  I was getting sick of it, let me tell you.  

And then I saw the movie and I understood.  Because she deserves every single accolade, every single repetitive review, every single ounce of fake gold on that Oscar statue (and the Golden Globe statue, too, though nobody seems to remember that one).  She completely BECAME Fantine in a way that surpassed Ruthie Henshall and even Lea Salonga and definitely Genevieve Leclerc (wasn't impressed with her portrayal... sorry).  All of a sudden I felt the tragedy of "At the End of the Day" in a way I've never felt before.

I mean, here's this woman who definitely made a mistake when she was younger and is paying the consequences now... but the utter callousness and even selfishness of her coworkers is terrifying.  Terrifying because I have to wonder if I would be just like them.  Yes, Fantine's daughter that she has to hide is a result of sin in her earlier life, but does that mean that the "righteous" women in the factory ought to conspire together to get her fired?  These are respectable women working respectable jobs, the kind who would consider themselves good and upright citizens... and yet they are the villains in this little tableau, the ones who drove her into the beginning of her tragic downward spiral.  Really makes you think... would I be like them if I ran into someone like Fantine in my life?  "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her..."

I really enjoyed the explanatory bits with Javert showing up at the factory and explaining his presence there to Monsieur Madeleine, aka Valjean... in the musical it IS a bit fuzzy as to how Javert randomly materialized in the runaway cart scene.  (Is he supposed to be the only cop in France?)  However, I did not enjoy the loud noises emanating from Russell Crowe's mouth.  "Please KNOW me as... JAVERT! I am HERE at your comMAND..." I'm reminded of a quote I saw on Hayden's blog once-- 

"You don't have to sing EVERYTHING!"
"But it's a muuuuuuuusicaaaaaaal!"

I really think someone should have said that to Russell Crowe.  Everyone else got along just fine with speak-sining the dialogue bits, but for some reason he felt he had to belt every single line.  One can only imagine how the poor man got along during lunch breaks. "Please PASS the salt and PEPPER!"

As for "The Runaway Cart"... to be honest, it felt too rushed.  I'm sure they were going for a more realistic approach, in which everything WOULD seem to be happening at once--the toppling cart, the terrified townsfolk, the mayor stepping in and taking charge--but it left this movie viewer feeling a little dizzy.  And what was up with chopping off half the lyrics at the end?  Was it a "shuffle verses and deal to the person on your left" kind of thing?  I mean, Valjean had no reason to say "say what you must, don't leave it there," when Javert hadn't even really voiced his suspicions yet.  Sigh.

"I look like a moose."
"But a very cute moose.  Make all the boy moose go HWOOOOOONK."
*blog readers make angry noises*
*Amy apologizes profusely and attempts to cultivate a socially acceptable sense of humor*

We managed to skip through "Lovely Ladies" quite nicely (though it did mean sacrificing the hair-and-teeth bit, but hey, I knew what happened) and in case any of my readers are wondering, I'll tell you how to do it without missing "I Dreamed a Dream" (they're on the same track on the DVD, sadly).  Once you see Fantine walking through the red-light district with a shawl around her shoulders, hit "skip."  You'll go to the next track, which is "Fantine's Arrest," and then you just need to rewind (or do the DVD equivalent... what's that called...?) until you get to Fantine lying (ALONE) in a rowboat, and voila, there's IDAD.

Which, by the way, was mind-boggling.  SO. GOOD.  No, Anne Hathaway doesn't have the powerhouse voice that Lea Salonga or Betsy Morgan or Ruthie Henshall have, but she sang IDAD (to quote Eddie Redmayne) "with this incredible fragility" that was unbelievably beautiful.  And sad.  (Well... duh.) 

Throughout that scene,  it kept hitting me just how ugly Fantine had become... I mean, here's Anne Hathaway, arguably the most beautiful human being on earth, and in this role she's become this woman who truly has been dropped at the bottom of the heap.  And that's never more clearly shown than in "Fantine's Arrest."

The song itself isn't that great until Javert shows up and then it becomes awesome.  I realize that they cut lines for length and all, and quite frankly I'd rather not hear all of what Bamatabois has to say, but seriously, it was like they exchanged two words and all of a sudden he's doing the snow attack.  And Fantine didn't really fight back as much as I thought she should have.  You could argue that Anne Hathaway's Fantine is more weak and beaten than some of the others, which is right, but I do think Fantine should have a little of the wildcat left in her at that point.  Anyways, Russell Crowe did bee-yew-tee-fully with that scene.  Stopping the other guys from going after her, and the way he said, "Save your breath and save your tears"-- does Javert possibly have a tiny bit of a soft spot, a spot that feels bad for Fantine despite his tenacity in clinging to The Law?  I'm not really sure what to make of this... I kinda liked the "other side" that Russell Crowe brings to the character, but is it canon?  I think not.  And the by-the-book-and-only-by-the-book part of me (which is not unlike Javert... cough...) says it's not right.  It's not really right.  (More on this later.  In Part Three.  Did I mention this thing is going to have three parts.  Because it is.)

All that aside, Valjean's rescue of Fantine is sweet and adorable and tearjerking and people who don't feel at least a little bit moved are made of stone.  End of story.

I really appreciated the fact that they included the scene where Javert tenders his resignation, because I felt it added a lot more depth to the story and made far more sense than the original musical did.  Now don't start smacking me with your stolen baguettes just yet-- I am NOT criticising the musical.  I mean, come on.  This is me and Les Mis we're talking about.  However, I do think the movie did a great job of clearing up some confusion and delay about who Javert was suspecting and why Valjean felt he had to go confirm his identity and blah-de-blah.  And am I the only one who giggled when Russell Crowe boomed out that he disgraced the uuuuuuuniform that he wore?  Because, you know, he doesn't sing as well as the other Javerts....?  Eh, never mind, it wasn't that funny.

Who Am I? left me feeling kinda... unimpressed.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either.  Not really memorable at all.  I do like that song, but nobody sings it the way Colm sings it.  One little bone I had to pick with that scene, however... what was up with those letters??? At one point, as Valjean is packing to go to the trial, he picks up a packet of letters tied up with a ribbon and smells them.  Presumably they smell good, which makes me think that they probably weren't business letters... which makes me think they might have been supposed to be from a lady.  Um.  What.  Valjean doesn't do romance, peeps.  I realize some people ship him with Fantine.  But then, some people ship Javert with Azelma, so... yeah.  (I don't have any proof of a Jazelma ship, but I don't doubt that it or something equally as kooky does exist somewhere.)

If I ever get a chance to meet Tom Hooper, I will definitely ask him about the letters.  But only after I've thanked him profusely for casting the barricade boys so perfectly, demanded why they didn't have more screen time, congratulated him on his impeccable staging (er... blocking?) of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and given several broad hints about how Les Miserables: The Six-Hour Director's Cut Along with Five Additional Hours of Fra Fee Talking About Random Things in an Irish Accent would be an awesome release for Christmas this year.

 I felt a severe lack of ooomph in the courtroom scene.  I definitely prefer the way it's played out onstage, with pandemonium breaking loose as Valjean shows his brand and then goes running out in the confusion with Javert on his heels.  Or should I say, "exit, pursued by Javert?"

Fantine's Death was heartbreaking.  I loved the vision she had of Little Cosette (it's all so brick-accurate, I'm internally squealing) and the way Anne Hathaway sang everything so softly and brokenly was perfect.  Ruthie Henshall kinda belts out "Come to Me", which I don't like.  (Not that I don't like Ruthie Henshall... but I just don't like the way she sings that song.  "And TELL Cosette I LOOOOOOOVE her and I'll SEE her when I WAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!!!!" *RAH mushrooms shake from sheer noise level*)  

As for Confrontation... 'twas EPIC.  This was definitely Russell Crowe's best song, and Hugh Jackman did a pretty great job, too.  Loved how he wrenched the shelf thingy off the wall to beat back Javert's sword (though I was amused by the way Javert was using his sword one-handed to fend off Valjean's two-handed stick... who again is the "stronger man by far?")  It was fun to see the nuns scurrying away in terror, too-- okay, that sounds awful, but I just mean that it put the episode in perspective.  On stage you don't see what the rest of the hospital is thinking as these two guys have a fistfight.  Heehee.

I was not pleased at the number of lines that were cut out, but time constraints and blat-blat-blat.  Please release the ending bit with "I swear to you I will be there" in that director's cut, Mr. Hooper.

Isabelle Allen was, hands-down, the best Little Cosette I've ever seen.  She had an adorable singing voice, the perfect look for Wee Cosette (not quite a miniature Amanda Seyfried, but pretty close) and just the right blend of terrified and put-upon and abused and unbelievably sweet.  I'll confess that I generally skip "Castle on a Cloud" when I'm listening to Les Mis, because it kind of bores me, but her version is precious.

I generally skip Master of the House, too, but for a different reason than boredom.  Ahem.  On the DVD it's quite simple just to skip the entire track, and once you see Cosette wandering the woods, you're good.  This part is hilarious, by the by.  Because stalking young children is totally okay if you have a really cool coat with a cape thing and if you offer to do their chores for them.  Anne-girl and I have our own version of Valjean's greeting to Cosette.

"Do not be afraid of me... don't hide.  Show me where you live... tell me your wi-fi password... give me your Social Security number..."

Moving on.  The sweeping-off-of-the-hat and the "Mademoiselle," were squealy-adorable, though.  And did anyone else notice that when they came back through the village to the inn and she was swinging on his arm, he made the exact same grunting noise as in the opening scene?  One would presume an undernourished eight-year-old is a bit less heavy than a flag mast.  But anyways.  I suppose it was symbolic or something.

Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were gross and disgusting as the Thenardiers (obviously) but they were also really, really funny. "Waltz of Treachery" was the best I'd ever seen, and definitely the high comedic point of the film.  Thenardier keeps getting Cosette's name messed up, a gag that (I believe) originated with the 25th Concert and is now a solid part of the show.  

"Farewell, Courgette."

Fun fact: a courgette is a zucchini in Britain.  There's your random act of culture, courtesy of me, for the day.  I imagine all the British actors snorting into their sleeves during that scene and the Americans being all, "lol what?"

Moving on.
(Did I say that before?  Never mind.  Hush up, can't you.)

"Suddenly" has gotten a lot of flak from the critics, I know.  But I (speaking as a diehard fan of the brick and the original musical and the French concept album and basically anything remotely connected to all of those) absolutely loved it.  And really, who cares about the critics?  Les Mis isn't about the critics.  It's about the people.  Historically, this story hasn't done well in the eyes of the Uppity and Scholarly Folk who review it in newspapers and such, yet the madding crowd who have bought the book and seen the musical and watched the film are touched by it in a special way.  And isn't that what the story is all about?  Ordinary people, the "lower classes," the uneducated and poor?  I'm not saying that the majority of Les Mis' fan base are peasants, but I am saying that I don't give two beans for the snooty reviewers who say "Suddenly" was too slow-moving and saccharine and nobody liked it.  It's a heartwarming little piece about a man who's become a father overnight, for Pete's sake... it's not supposed to be an eleven o'clock showstopper.  (Oh, and Hugh Jackman's an adoptive father in real life... which I thought added a special tenderness to his performance.  And this song was actually within his vocal range.  So he sounded great.)

And it made me cry.  Which is not a shocker, I know.  But I didn't expect to cry during that song, and yet I lost it at this line-- "Trusting me the way you do, I'm so afraid of failing you..."  Hasn't everyone, whether they're a parent or not, struggled with wanting to live up to the expectations of someone they love?  Not necessarily to Succeed in Life or Be Famous or anything big like that, but to be the caring, loving kind of person that a small child sees in you.  

Yeah, when Amy reviews Les Miserables, Amy goes deep.  :D

I was SO PLEASED with how the part from the brick was included about fleeing from Javert (with Spiderman-like escape routes!) and taking refuge in the convent.  With the addition of Father Fauchelevent, too!  How nice!  Poor guy gets totally neglected onstage... squished by a vegetable cart and then never heard from again. Tragic.  

And was I the only one who burs tinto tears again when they got to the convent and the nuns were singing the mass to the Bishop's music (which, technically, is "Empty Chairs"?  Gahhhhh.  Loved that. The welcoming arms helping Valjean start over once again... yup, yup, symbolism again. I should be an English teacher.

And now... we come to "Stars."  Javert's big showstopping eleven o'clock number.  I was on the edge of my seat at this point (totally approve the rearrangement choices, by the way!  It was well-placed here!) because if Russell Crowe messed it up, I was going to be one angry Mizzer.

Did he mess it up? Did he?  .
... He did not.

I know, I know.  I never thought I'd say that.  But I found myself actually liking his version of the song.  No, it wasn't spine-chilling like Philip Quast's.  No, it didn't shake the back seats of the theater like Andrew Varela's.  No, it didn't resound into the sky like Norm Lewis'.   It was different... but it was still good. As he started singing, I was couldn't help thinking... I am enjoying this.  I like his voice.  THIS IS A PLEASANT VOICE TO LISTEN TO.  THIS IS A GOOD SONG.  Now the end notes were still pretty weak and I didn't like the pop-ish influence that crept in here and there, but it was so much better than I thought it would be.  But I would like to take this opportunity to say that people like me who are deathly afraid of heights ought to be warned before seeing the movie, because YEEEESH.  Must we really have approximately ten minutes of screen time with Javert walking along edges of ten-story buildings????

But overall... I was pleased.  Not thrilled, but more than tolerant.  Just pleased.  Petie and other Russell Crowe fans, you may feel free to be proud of me and pat me on the head.

And... we are going to stop there for tonight.  It's getting late and you should be in bed.  Part Two will come ASAP... I definitely won't delay in writing that bit.  Because, you know, Introduction of My Favorite Characters and all that jazz.  (Sneak preview of Part Two:  Enjolras is amazing.)


Stephanie said...

Oooohhh! We agree on so much more then I thought we would! I being a Les Miz newbie, and you being, I found myself going, Yes YES YES!! through out this post. As far as Russell goes, when he sings, I find his voice fantastic. When he shouts his speak-singing lines I cringe, or laugh.

Alexandra said...

In Which I Agree With Almost Everything You Said.

So we've discussed this in length many, many I won't go into too much detail here. Other than Hugh is AMAZING. Girl, hast thou not heard his Soliloquy from Carousel? THAT "Take" as in "make it, or steal it, or TAKE it" is EPIC. A lot of the singing problems in this film, I felt, is that this wasn't a concert, this wasn't a "BELT THE SONG OUT", so a lot of the power in many people's voices weren't properly shown. Which I'm totally OK with a lack of belting as I liked the realism of the singing, just sayin'.

And Hugh IS Valjean to me now. *ducks*.

Agree about I said, I think he was focusing too hard on singing... I saw him in Man of Steel and he was amazing. Anyway. Hugh was just so NATURAL and looked so comfortable and Russell was like, gah, I have to hit this note...

SUCH A GOOD POINT ABOUT THE WORKERS, and something I feel was the point of the whole film. Javert and the rest of the antagonists of the film, to me, represent good people who are stuck on self-righteousness and have developed a Pharasaical attitude, something I'm planning on talking more about in my own review That Is Soon To Come. There was a quote somewhere, something to the effect of your love may be the only Jesus a person will ever see, which reminds me of "to love another person is to see the face of God", and the whole point of the story is how the Bishop showed God's love to Valjean and how he showed the same Christ-like love to other people, and how that impacted so many lives. SUCH a good reminder!!!

Anyway. Moving on...

ANNEHATHAWAYISTHEBESTFANTINEINHISTORYTHEEND. Because who CARES about a great voice if that's all there is? I don't want a gorgeous voice singing I Dreamed a Dream, with every note perfect. I want to FEEL what Fantine is feeling, and see her despair, and really GET what she's going through. And she delivered in bucketloads.

YESYESYES, so I *loved* the explained extra bits...seriously, I got SO many things in the movie that I didn't get, even after seeing the musical on stage. Cleared up SO many questions.

And I laughed a little at the Princess Diaries caption. And then I cried. Like I said in my essay, the juxtaposition of the grotesquely upbeat "Lovely Ladies" with Fantine getting her hair cut off and her teeth pulled is pure, sheer genius on Boubil and Schonberg's part.

Agree on Fantine's Arrest, btw. Only thing I was a biiiiiit let down about. Especially since she slapped the foreman in ATEOTD, you know she still has spark in her, and...yeah. I also heard a bootleg where Fantine yells "Holy God, is there no mercy?" and I like that. But Valjean was BRILLIANT (when he carries her away...gahhhhhhhhhh!) and I really, really liked seeing that "other side" of Javert, brick-accurate or not. :D

OOOOOOOH, good point about the letters. But hey, you never know his life before the prison...he may have had a girlfriend when he was put in prison. And I didn't ship Valjean and Fantine because You Don't Do That, but I could so easily. Cough.

FANTINE'S DEATH PERFECT. She sounded like she was ACTUALLY DYING, hallelujah. And Confrontation was EPIC and totally made sense (even in the musical it was like, um, they're just staring at each other yelling? Really?).

Isabella Alden, adorable...and LOLOLOLOL about the Valjean's greeting! So true! Although Mademoiselle MELTED me. Huuuuuuuuuuuuuugh....

"Have we done for your child what is best? I think so..." never thought I'd like a couple as much as TAC, but I *loved* them.

Suddenly was gorgeous, as I've said before...

And YAYYYYYY, I'm not the only one who actually liked his Stars! He did a good job, I thought. Really good.

For not saying anything, I've said alot. Hahaha.

Bethy Morrow said...

Just started reading your post.
I'm going to comment as I go along.
You frustration over "itinerary" is hilarious. It's not just Russell Crowe who says "intinerry" But every included!
Some people have mention being able to spot Aussie accents in the film, can you? I have definitely detected some American accents at times....Aaron Tveit.
The Confrontation is THE BOMB. My little sister and I do it as a duet together!
Hahaha "and the plague is coming on fast" Must have been Joly.
Finally finished reading!
I'm keen for Part Two.
Beth xxx

Molly said...

Ooh, every time I read something about Les Mis on a blog, it makes me ant to see it all the more! I can't wait! And of course, you must be the first to see it with me, m'dear. :) Loved Part 1, can't wait for Part 2!
Oh, and I smiled when you said that you started squealing at the scene selection at a certain person. Wonder who THAT could be? :)

Emma Jane said...

WOW. THIS WAS REALLY LONG. But very interesting!! Miss Dashwood, I am utterly amazed at your very superior knowledge of this story. You seem to know almost everything there is to possibly know about it! I can't say I COMPLETEY agree with everything you said (because, well, for starters, I didn't actually enjoy the movie...yeah, sorry), but I DO concur with you on most of the points you made. Such as how fun it is to make fun of Russell Crowe. Heh. :P
One of the main reasons why I didn't like this movie was because I really wasn't expecting it to be ALL singing with absolutely no speaking to speak of (haha), except for Russell Crowe's occasional snort or grunt or whatever you care to call it. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had been more prepared for the story too, because even thought I knew it wasn't going to be Jane Austen, I didn't know it would be this....disturbing. (And when you watch it in a theater, you can't skip! You were smart, m'dear, to wait and watch it at home.)
Also, I didn't really care for Hugh Jackman as Valjean, but I think that was mostly because he seemed to be constantly trying to sing higher than his range. I actually laughed when he squeaked out the last note of "Bring Him Home", because as he was leading up to it, I was thinking, "no, don't do it, PLEASE..." But he did do it. So I laughed.
I was definitely more impressed with Anne Hathaway than I thought I would be. I have only read the book up to the part where Fantine is sick and about to die, only I didn't know she was actually going to die, so I was very surprised that she wasn't in the movie more. My sister likes to joke about how she won an Oscar for just 25 minutes of screen time- just because she's Anne Hathaway- but really, I think she did earn it with this performance, and her "I Dreamed a Dream" was AMAZING. Even I will allow that. : )
Not that he was sadly missed or anything, but STILL. It was "shocking!", as Edmund Sparkler would say.
Before I conclude my very long and rambly comment, I must say again that I am glad to find someone else who has as much fun poking fun at Russell Crowe as I do. There. I said it. Your comments about his trouble sing/speaking the lines normally made me laugh out loud. Carry on, dear.

I'm looking forward to reading parts two and three! : )

~Emma Jane

Hayden said...

Okay, actually you quoted me quoting Veggietales...but hey, that's just getting technical :)

Wow, I agreed with you on so many points....The cinematography of this movie was stunning (when it opened with the big "Duh-DUH" Emily leaned over and whispered, "I have a thrill!":), and although I agree that Hugh Jackman's voice wasn't my favorite, his acting...yeah. Really, really good. Sometimes I picture him as the brick Valjean myself ;)

I LOVE Suddenly. Like, I saw the lyrics online before I watched the movie, and it made me tear up because they were so perfect for the Valjean/Cosette relationship.

Speaking of crying...I actually didn't cry very much. The ending, first where he was giving up Cosette to Marius, and then when he was dying...that got me. But other than that I was dry eyed...even during I Dreamed a Dream (although part of the reason may be that when we were watching this movie my two youngest brothers kept interrupting all of the saddest parts. It was like, really?)

And I'm glad I wasn't the only one who WASN'T horrified with Russell Crowe...again, not the best, but hey- he wasn't horrible. And yay! Someone else who liked Stars! I actually thought it was his best song. And I LOVED, LOVED the way he sang it while on the roof...and that's from someone who hates heights :)

So we watched it on clearplay, so it just cut out parts and pieces of Master of the House (yeah, I'd have skipped the whole thing) but one thing that was really funny was that it shows the ways the Thenardiers rob everyone, and then when Jean Valjean comes they try all their "tricks" on him...and none of them work. It was hilarious.

I think my main disappointment was that the movie, in some ways, underwhelmed me...I was expecting SO MUCH, that of course it couldn't live up to my expectations, and of course, I wanted everyone's singing to be just as incredible as in the stage performance...although reading this review has made me want to watch it again. :)

Hannah said...

Miss Dashwood - This film is one of my favourite films ever.Sure it's not perfect but it gets so, so, SO much right and is just so AMAZINGLY brilliant.

I agree with almost everything you've said about this film so far except I enjoy Hugh Jackman's Valjean more than you and I'm not much of a fan of Russell Crowe's Stars. I wouldn't say that his version is bad as such, I just lacking in emotion. And yes Crowe is definitely at his best vocally in The Confrontation (how much fun was that scene?!)

BTW I find it interesting that you skipped the more bawdy songs in Les Mis - Lovely Ladies and Master of the House. I think Brits are actually less conservative than Americans and that we don't tend to be phased by these things. That's not intended as a criticism in anyway, it's just an observation. I'm looking forward to your future posts about this film!

Alexandra - Anne Hathaway is my absolute favourite Fantine ever as well! I have heard so many versions of I Dreamed a Dream and yet I've never been as moved by that song as I was with Hathaway's. And I also adore Hugh Jackman and Isabelle Allen in this film : )

Hamlette (Rachel) said...


I have like 900 things to say, but people keep saying them ahead of me. So just... yeah, I love this post :-D

But you have to know that "Please PASS the salt and PEPPER!" had me dissolved into desperate giggles. Especially since it reminds me of one of my favorite moments in Crowe's movie "Master and Commander."

I just did a post a couple days ago about how Crowe's Javert is growing on me, so I especially enjoyed your comments about his non-canon-but-still-awesome personality. And that you liked his version of "Stars," cuz me too.

Also, "exit, persued by Javert" is my new favorite phrase. After the salt and PEPPER bit, which is my other new favorite phrase.

Miss Dashwood said...

Woot, woot, time to reply to comments! I've been SO BAD about this lately... I WILL do it for this post series. And I will do it in a timely manner.

I had to laugh out loud at the "you being, well... you..." My reputation precedes me, I see. Or perhaps I should say my life is an open book. But hey, I'm not ashamed to be called miserably fanatic. :D And I definitely cringed during some of RC's lines, too.

Ha... I was laughing rather evilly to myself when you said you weren't going to go into too much detail. Don't avoid detail around here, dear. We thrive on detail. Absolutely live on it.

I have NOT heard his Soliloquy from Carousel... bad me. I shall look on YouTube. And very true about this not being a concert... I did see an interview where Samantha Barks was saying she had to keep reminding herself not to belt into the back recesses of the theater, because it wasn't a theater and the mic was picking up every single thing. :P
Good point about Hugh being relaxed and Russell not! Being the least experienced singer in the whole thing (or one of them), the poor guy was probably just trying too hard.

YES YES YES about the whole showing love thing. You could almost rephrase it as, "to love another person is to show the face of God." And it's stunning to think how many lives were impacted when God worked through the Bishop... makes you really think about what kind of an impact your actions are making.

The "holy God, is there no mercy?" line IS in both concerts, ya know... or did you mean that she yells it in the bootleg rather than normally singing it?

I do too know Valjean's life before prison, and trust me, he never had a girlfriend. According to the brick, the reason he vested SO MUCH love into Cosette was because he'd known so little, and certainly none of the romantic type (which is why he had such a hard time giving her up to Marius).

Oooh, yeah, loved Thenardier's little comments here and there. I thought I was going to hate Sacha B-C because he wasn't Alun Armstrong, ya know, but actually he was really good.

Looking forward to your not-saying-anythings on the next parts. :D

Beth Claire,
Whoops, is that really the way Aussies say "itinerary"? Ack. Now I feel rude. I had no idea, honestly... I just thought he didn't know how to pronounce the word.
Aaron Tveit's Americanisms do show through here and there, as do Amanda Seyfried's, but I didn't really hear the Australian accents as much as I thought I might.

Definitely looking forward to seeing it with you when you are Old Enough. :D And the certain person on the scene selection.. oh, you wouldn't know who he is 'cause I've never mentioned him... he's this guy with blond hair who kind of jump-starts the whole revolution. Completely unattractive and really very boring. And his voice--gag. Nope, he's not worth talking about. :p

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

My favorite line in this whole review: "Exit, pursued by Javert." That's just brilliant. :)

I haven't seen the movie, but I've been reading blog reviews with great interest, so by this point I almost feel I've seen it vicariously. :) I think it's so neat that they went back to the book for some of the bits and pieces and even the interpretations of characters. On the other hand, I've listened to a few of the songs online, and have been slightly underwhelmed by most of them. The only singing which really impressed me was Eddie Redmayne's and Anne Hathaway's. (When I saw the trailer for the first time last year, with Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" for the soundtrack, it absolutely gave me chills.) But the thing is, some of the others—like Jackman and Tveit—really can sing; I was just a little disappointed with the way they chose to do the songs. In "One Day More," I kept on waiting for those two to cut loose and just SING (Colm Wilkinson and Michael Maguire's wonderful performances of that song in the Tony Awards broadcast are kind of the gold standard for me).

Looking forward to the rest of the review!

Eliza said...

This post came just in time for me, as I just finished watching the movie two days ago. (I have not watched any of the Les Mis concerts - I have only read the book.)

I thought Hugh Jackman did a great job as Valjean, and I actually liked Russell Crowe as Javert. I thought he did a good job of bringing out Javert's emotionally reserved personality in both his singing and his acting. I liked his "Stars" especially. I'm afraid I wasn't all that impressed by Anne Hathaway as Fantine. To me, she went a little overboard in her emotions. I'm looking forward to reading Parts 2 and 3!

I know I haven't commented before, but I have been enjoying reading your blog for some time and decided it would be a good idea to start commenting.:)

Katelyn said...

Since this is the first time I have seen Les Mis, I loved most of it. Yes, some things/songs could have been done differently; but on the whole, I enjoyed it. I think 'Stars', 'Suddenly','IDAD', 'Do you hear the people sing?', and 'Red and Black' are my favorite songs ever.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the movie and educating poor, little, musical-deprived me :D

Miss Jane Bennet said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK eek eek eek eek eek eek eek.
...Now I have finished venting my feelings on this AWESOME review, and I can...well, review it. ;)
I have been trying to decide for some time whether or not to watch Les Mis. This definitely decided me for it- thanks especially to your tips on skipping "Lovely Ladies" and "Master of the House."
You NEED to do part 2 soon...I can't wait to hear about Les Amis! Or is that in Part 3...I can't remember. Eponine is my personal favorite character, followed closely by Gavroche (they are siblings, after all...), and I can't wait to hear your opinion on Samantha Barks.
...Wait a minute. I think you've already expressed your opinion on her...I think you like her...although in my opinion, Kaho Shimada is THE Eponine, with Lea Salonga coming in close second. But this is turning into random ramblings on Les Miz (which aren't bad things, but whatever), and I am not going to do that at this time. ;)
Hugh Jackman has always sort of looked the part for me, although I'm glad Colm got the part of the Bishop. And the passing of the candles? How clever of you. *breathes in the burnt paper*
...Sorry. I just finished watching TSP again...
Anyway. I have been very eager to watch Hathaway as Fantine...and you just made me eagerer. Is that a word? I guess it is.
I, obviously, haven't seen Isabelle Allen, but she definitely looks like a good Cosette...I saw a clip of the "Will you be mama and papa to me?" part and my heart went Wicked Witch of the West.
I haven't read the brick summer...but I'm glad that they kept more of the book elements. I like BBC adaptations...especially Austen ones...but whatever. Back to the POINT.
I was very much looking forward to your review of Javert, since Russell Crowe definitely looks the part of Javert- I kept wondering frantically whether he could sing or not. :D
I haven't seen the whole of the TAC concert yet (shame on me!) so I didn't know about the Cosette name mix-up. I found that rather amusing. :D
The Thenardiers are always an important part for me, because if they can' know, be...well, disgusting and despicable, I guess, I really do despise them. Well, I do that already. I mean the actors.
I'm really glad that they're good...they do play something of an important part. Unfortunately for many people. :D
...By the way, did you know that Kaho Shimada learned English just to play the part of Eponine? Cool random fact...but I'm getting way off-track here.
Great review! I will watch it this Friday and perhaps write my own review...not as good as yours, but ah well. Thanks for posting this! :)

Miss Dashwood said...

Emma Jane,
I appreciate your patience in reading this whole thing when you didn't really like the movie! Hopefully my enthusiasm for it may influence you to give it a second chance, eh what?

I can see how not knowing the story ahead of time would make the singing a bit unsettling... though I WILL say that the movie inserted a lot more spoken lines than the original musical. It is technically an operetta, since it is completely sung-through.

Bring Him Home gave me the giggles too. More on that in Part Three. ;)

The reason Fantine isn't in the musical more is that there are SO MANY other stories to be told and episodes to unfold (you see I'm a bit of a poet!) and only a limited amount of time to show them all. So she got condensed, as did pretty much everyone else.

I'd recommend trying the book again... it's really amazing, and the story will make a lot more sense once you've read it. :D

Oooh, so that was Veggietales? Good to know. :D

You didn't cry very much? I admire your restraint. Heehee. I was bawling at moments that weren't even sad. More on that in the next part. :P

I did love the way he sang it on the roof... I just wish they hadn't shown the height so much. And LOL about the Thenardiers! I'd kinda want to see MOTH just for that, but I've heard there's a lot of iffy stuff in that scene besides the ending verse, so... I think I'm going to just skip it.

I have to say, the movie didn't underwhelm me at all... it really overwhelmed me, so much so that I wasn't sure what I thought at the end, except that I loved it and would have to watch it again to be able to analyze it. Which I did. Four times. :D

Indigo Montoya,
So glad you loved it too! Wasn't Confrontation AWESOME?

I'm not sure if my aversion to MOTH and LL was necessarily an Americanism... a lot of reviews I read didn't seem to have a problem with them. But as a Christian I didn't feel comfortable watching scenes that were showing sin so flagrantly... even if it was being portrayed as bad.

Looking forward to your future comments! :D

Ehehehehe, I'm so glad you liked "please PASS the salt and PEPPER!" I really can't take credit though... I heard the gist of that from a friend's brother who was making fun of Russell Crowe, found it hilarious, and incorporated it into my post.

Exit, pursued by Javert is actually a pun on a stage direction from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale... which says "exit, pursued by a bear" at the end of one scene. (My sister has a t-shirt that says that. :D) Although with a username like Hamlette, you probably already knew about that... :D

Miss Dashwood said...

Elisabeth Grace,
Do watch it ASAP. It's amazing. :D
I have to disagree (respectfully) about Aaron Tveit at least... I think he did a great job in One Day More, and though he doesn't have Ramin Karimloo's belting chops (that's just not the way his voice is wired) he still put so much fire and passion and ooomph into that song (and all his others) that I was left Muchly Impressed. Muchly. However, Colm does set a gold standard that Hugh Jackman doesn't quite meet. :D

Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I would definitely recommend seeing the concerts if you enjoyed the movie... SUCH good performances (for the most part. Haha. The little boy who plays Marius on the 25th Anniversary Concert is horrid. But the others are all great.) Especially the 10th Anniversary Concert, fondly referred to as the TAC. I posted about it last June in great detail. :D

You poor little musical-deprived dear! You must remedy your unfortunate sitation at once... may I recommend watching both Les Mis concert DVDs, along with the movies of My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The King and I, Oliver! and Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary. :D

And your choice in favorite songs is excellent, I must say. :D

Miss Bennet,
So glad you enjoyed it and that my tips have been helpful! :D

Yep, Les Amis will be in Part 2, never fear. My opinion on Samantha Barks? She's incredible. No question. And don't ever apologize for random ramblings on Les Mis. :D

BAHAHAHAHAHA, your TSP reference made me giggle. As did the "my heart went Wicked Witch of the West." I'm MEEEEEEELTING!

The Cosette name mix-up is actually from the 25th concert... have you seen that one? Very good but not quite as epic as the TAC.

I did know that fact about Kaho Shimada-- well, that she learned her part phonetically to record the Complete Symphonic. To be honest, I'm really not a fan... I think she's too whiny for Eponine... but I do admire her for her gumption in learning such a big role in a foreign language. :D

Enjoy the movie on Friday!!

Joy W. Doering said...

Lovely, lovely Part One review. :) I enjoyed it muchly.
As some of the others have mentioned, I was also disappointed with the singing in the movie. This is completely excusable when you realize that the ONLY Les Mis I had seen was the TAC- and how do you compete with that? don't.
So, I decided that if you want to understand the STORY of Les Mis- you need to watch this movie. If you want to "Hear The People Sing"- get thee TAC posthaste. ;)
I love Hugh Jackman. He is one of my favorite actors. When I heard he had been cast as Valjean, I thought, "Someone knows what they'red doing!" And as for the question of the Oscar.....I'm still bitter about that. ;)
Like Russell Crowe- HJ's voice wasn't entirely up to par in some places (*cough* Bring Him Home *cough*) but as actors, I believe their performances were flawless.
I almost exploded in happiness when I saw Colm..... the perfect person for that part.....and if I wasn't already bawling my eyes out at the final scene in the abbey.....seeing him again would've started me right up.
Anne Hathaway is....not my favorite actress. Having said that- yes, she WAS Fantine. Her portrayal was raw and haunting and beautiful. I was able to forget my opinions of her and just watch the movie. I also thought she and Hugh had chemistry, which helped.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Yup, I got the Shakespeare reference (and "bear" and Javert" rhyme!), which is why I loved that bit :-D

Funny thing is, Russell Crowe is in an upcoming movie called "Winter's Tale," which I thought was a version of the Shakespeare play... but just found out today that it's based on a book from the 80s instead. Hmph. I wanted to see Crowe do Shakespeare. Oh well, I can always imagine him playing the bear next time I read the play, thanks to you ;-)

Katelyn said...

I own and have seen My Fair Lady and The Phantom's 25 anniversary and have seen the King and I, so maybe I am not THAT deprived. I do want to see/watch more, though. Providing my family can put up with my singing all my favorite songs from each one-they are not always inclined to watch said movies....

Mal said...

Ok. I must admit that I'm a little disappointed because I read this reaaaallly wanting to hear about Enjolras, but alas, I must wait until the next post :) I just saw a video of Tveit talking about how to pronounce it, and wow he's just amazing. I wanted to see Les Mis before, but now I'm even more excited for it :) I've only seen the Liam Neeson Les Mis for school, but my parents just said I can watch the new one, so I'll have to watch it very very soon :) I'm having a hard time picturing Anne Hathaway as Fantine, but I can't wait to see how they do it! Oh and I laughed pretty hard at your Princess Diaries reference ;)
Can't wait for part 2!
-mal :)

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Well, I just finished watching Les Mis, so I'm commenting again...I have to enthuse about it somewhere. ;)
I am not going to write a review of my own in this little comment box...but I will share my opinion on your review now that I've actually seen the movie.
I very much agree with you about Russell Crowe- his voice was all right. I enjoyed some of his songs...although during some of them I wanted to scream at him to put a bit more power in his voice. During some of his parts, he just stood there and
The Thenardiers...I agree with you completely. 'Nuff said.
I have watched that VeggieTales movie! I was laughing like craaaaazy when I heard it because, well, I was laughing like crazy at the line from the movie. It is really funny...:D
Anne Hathaway as Fantine was completely heartbreaking- I loved her! The only Fantine I've heard besides her is Debra Byrne, and Hathaway left her far behind. And the way they added Cosette in was...well, I was crying. Hard.
Jackman was good- I thought he could have been a little softer in some parts, but overall he was okay.
This movie was MAGNIFICENT overall, and I can't wait for Part 2! I'm resisting the urge to comment about Aaron Tveit, Daniel Huttlestone (is that how you spell it?), Fra Fee, and the rest until you put Part 2 up...;)

dram filmleri said...

i love the movie and article but some people still aganist musical drama in movies. they cant even try.

Unknown said...

I LOVE LES MIS SOOOOOOOO MUCH! (Yes I had my caps on. Got a problem with that Amy?) Teasing. I never even knew it existed until I saw the movie last April and I was like WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE??!!! I LOOOOOOVE YOU!!!!! Now, seven months latter, (and having memorized all the first act and most of the second, listened to all the versions out there, sang I Dreamed a Dream EVERY DAY and read the book(I'm not obsessed. YOU'RE OBSESSED)) I'm hopeing to play the part of Fantine in les mis at my school. IF we do it. If we don't, cue the music to I Dreamed a dream. Because then I'll fully appreciate how Fantine felt. Jk. But I must say, Amy, my dear, much as I love Philip Quast's version of Javert, I feel like Russle Crowe did a better job... put the knife down now, Amy, and let me explain myself. I just feel like he is too aggressive while he sings. That is not how Javert in the book is like. It says he was emotionless. However, while I didn't like Philip quast at first, he grew on me. I like both interpretations, but Russle Crowe is first and foremost. I did not like Cosette at first, then I read the book and watched other plays, and then I decided Amanda Seyfried's version best. She is Cosette, in way Katie hall never could be...yes, I just quoted Anne of Green Gables. I love Colm Wilkonsin's voice, but when I read the book Hugh Jackman came into my head as him and would not leave. I kinna don't like his voice sometimes. I do prefer colm, but Hugh's acting was awesome and stuff so I like em both. Samantha Barks is Eponine. Period. No arguing. Eddie reyamane....I love his voice, but I didn't picture him when I read the book. Sorry, I didn't mean to turn this into a full blown review, but suffice to say I LOVE EVERYTHING! The book was the first book ever to make me cry and the story is so touching... anyway short version of this comment: saw Les Mis. Loved it sooooooooo much. Wish I could write like Victor Hugo. Attempting to do so. Amen.

Unknown said...

Oh, forgot this. HOW DARE YOU MAKE FUN OF MY FANTINE! *hugging her while giving you the Menicing Glare of Meniecingness.* Ok. You're forgiven now. Thank - ok I'll stop.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Javert has a soft spot for Fantine. I think it was just showing that Javert is not cruel or vicious, but a firm believer in the law. The law was being fulfilled; as long as that happened, he didn't have to hurt anyone. That was the Javert of the book. Also, I think Cosette in the musical gets portrayed as this bimbo who only falls in love, and that's is NOT how she is in the book. So I think the musical is not very fair to her character *runs and hides after criticizing a masterpiece.*