I never do this, but I am so moved by Les Misérables I’ve got to get my emotions into words, and I figured I might as well share with all of you.
Forgive me if I ramble, because I’m still reeling over this movie.
A little background: I first saw this when I was 17 and during a very tumultuous time in my life. Certain songs–namely “I Dreamed A Dream–” moved me in ways I’ve never been able to describe. The score has always given me chills and at times brought tears to my eyes.
Onto the movie. I’d limited myself to seeing just a few clips because I wanted to be surprised, and because I didn’t want to get my expectations too high. After all, seeing it on the stage, even without being up close, is an experience that’s hard to match, and I’ve seen it three times.
Still, I’d heard so many great things that my expectations were pretty big. And they were absolutely exceeded.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
I’m not going to lie: I teared up at the first note, so I knew I was in for an emotional ride.
I never thought anyone could match Colm Wilkinson’s original portrayal of hero Jean Valjean, but Hugh Jackman did it. He was stellar and full of emotion, just like the rest of the cast.
Speaking of Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean makes an appearance in the film as the Bishop of Digne, the man who gives the convict a second chance. Of course he was fantastic.
You’ve probably heard some of the clips and know that every single cast member sang beautifully. But it was so much more than that. Every performance was raw and real. Because the actors didn’t use a playback and SANG LIVE DURING FILMING, you felt as though you were watching the stage production on steroids. Meaning the actors were able to add a depth to their performances I personally didn’t see on the stage.
And then there is Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway. I simply can’t describe how incredible her performance was. If you’ve seen the clip of her singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” you’re only getting a snippet. She is even better (yes!) in the vignettes during her prostitution horrors and when she is on her deathbed and sees her daughter, Cosette. Hathway wore very little makeup, if any. She cried–even sobbed–during much of her key parts. She stabbed you in the heart, and everyone in the theater felt it.
ETA: Just watched Anne Hathaway say this: “The depth of Fantine’s suffering gives life to the love you see in the rest of the film.” And THAT is why she is character that moves me so much. Also, Anne Hathaway’s mother played Fantine on the US Tour years ago. How cool is that?
Russell Crowe plays the antagonist Javert, and his performance truly surprised me. I knew he could act, but he can sing very well. Like the others, his voice carried a lot of emotion and I believed his performance.
And for comic relief, there are the innkeepers Thénardier and his pig of a wife. Their big scene comes after Fantine’s death, and it’s always been a breather. Sasha Baron Cohen and the always stellar Helena Bonham Carter simply nailed it.
The love story? Marius and Cosette have always been an after thought to me. I enjoyed it, but their songs never moved me like some of the others. Until tonight. Amanda Seyfried was great, and Eddie Redmayne even better. His pain after all his friends have been killed was evident in his voice and the tears he cried.
Most of the actors wore very little makeup as well, which made the performance all the more real. Between their vocal quality, the emotional rawness in their voices and the authenticity of their physical appearance, I truly forgot I was watching the movie and felt as though it was real life.
And the sets! The movie used the same sets you’ll see on stage, just in much grander fashion. Remember the famous barricade scene, when Enjolras, the leader of the student revolution, is killed and falls out the window and hangs upside down with the red flag? It’s there, and the sets are all true to the stage production.
Every single actor was perfectly cast, and every damned one more than delivered. It was obvious they were all as affected by the music and the story as we are, and they carried it through to their performances.
For me, the standouts were Hathaway, Crowe, and Redmayne, but no one disappointed.
And I think what truly puts the movie over the top is because the producers stayed VERY TRUE to the stage production. Between the sets and the smart move of having the actors look naturally, I really felt as though I were watching real life pass me by.
I cried on and off throughout the entire show, as did much of the theater. I cried on the way home when I tried to explain to my mother how affected I was. This was easily the best movie of the year for me and probably the best I’ve seen. I simply cannot remember any film moving me the way this one has, and this is the first time I truly wish I could thank everyone involved for bringing Les Miserablés to us with all the glory it should have.
If you’re considering seeing it, DO IT. This was truly an experience, and that’s the first time I can say that about any film.
I can’t wait to see it!
Enjoy. Can’t wait to hear what you think!
Looking forward to seeing it, Stacy.
I hope you love it! Thanks:)
What a marvelous review! I want to see this, too. I’ve actually played cello in the pit orchestra for Les Mis and found it to be some of the most challenging–and inspiring–music ever.
Holy wow! How awesome would that be? I think it’s the score that initially touched me – there is something about the music that, as Anne Hathaway said, “illuminates the soul.”
Hope you enjoy!
I stopped at ‘Spoilers’. All I needed to hear was how moved you were. LOL! I can’t wait to see this…and you just convinced me to make time, and I rarely make time to *watch* anything. Too many books to read. But…on your advice, I’m going. So you’ll hear from me if I love or hate. 🙂
Thanks! I really didn’t do a very good job articulating it, but for me, it was simply incredible. And I know what you mean – I have so much I need to do. Can’t wait to know what you think!
Great review! I am glad you enjoyed this movie so much. It’s wonderful when you look forward to something and it ends up being more than you expected. I am also glad you included spoilers because that’s the closest I’ll get to watching it. 😉
Yes, it is. Not all the critics have loved it, but I don’t think they can ever be pleased. The only “problem” with the movie is one that’s fundamental to Les Miz: Fantine’s story and sacrifice is so powerful that after she is gone, everything sort of pales in comparison. But the movie covered that problem really well.
Have not (yet) seen the movie, nor have I seen the stage play, but your review (and a few others) have nailed that yes, I do want to, after all. I read the book this year, and do NOT recommend the unabridged version (1500+ pages of rambling incoherence).
Beverly, I confess, I never read the book and don’t think I could. The story is fabulous and has so many layers, but I can’t imagine reading it. To me, the music is what drives it because the songs are so well written and the score is stellar. I hope you enjoy it!
I agree with Beverly. The main story line is good, but the author goes off on all these boring tangents. It was painful, but I got through it. I don’t recommend it.
I am SO glad to hear this. I really wanted to see this movie, but was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the soundtrack I’ve listened to so many times. You didn’t mention Eponine, and I was wondering how that portrayal worked. Eponine has always been a favorite of mine, especially when she sings “On My Own”. I can’t wait to see this!
You know, the soundtrack–and all broadway shows–are as much about vocal quality as anything. Actors can only do so much with the stage makeup on as well. The movie didn’t have this problem, and Anne Hathaway talked about her version of IDAD, saying it felt wrong (vain?) to do a pretty version. Her voice is beautiful, but the vocal quality is the least important thing about the performance. It’s everything else that is utterly moving.
Eponine was fantastic as well, and she did a great job making me feel the longing she has for Marius. I’ve just always been partial to Fantine;)
Agreed. And those children were amazing, too. Thanks for your review, Stacy.
You’re welcome. And I forgot about the kids. They were wonderful, and Cosette was a perfect fit for the poster, wasn’t she?
I also saw the theater production of Les Miserables (over 20 years ago), and I was surprised how close the movie was to that while still being so different because it was film. The movie has the capacity for close-ups and grand cinematography that affects the storytelling itself.
I (and my hubby) would disagree about Crowe being perfectly cast, but with the rest of your points, I completely concur. In my opinion, Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream was the heart-ripped-from-my-lungs moment in the movie. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.
I was also moved by how the story is about paying it forward in so many respects. The bishop is kind to Valjean, who is turn is kind to Cosette and Valjert, and so on and so on. It was a message of how one life can positively affect others and the importance of giving grace. Beautiful review, Stacy!
Exactly! The movie did a great job, and I actually liked the raw, honest vocals in the movie better. I thought Crowe did a great job, but I see he is getting a lot of flack.
Yes on Hathaway. She was amazing, and I did the same.
Great points on how the story is about paying it forward. That is one of the most important things in life.
Tiffany A White
Sadly, I’m going to have to wait to see this when it’s on video. I promised my guy I’d never make him take me to see another musical for the rest of our lives. He almost died watching Phantom with me. Sad, I know… but it’s just not his cup of tea.
I’m really glad you enjoyed the movie so much and I can’t wait to check it out myself. I have a feeling it’s going to win a lot of awards…
LOL. I actually went by myself and was so happy I did. Rob wouldn’t like it and that would have made my experience much less enjoyable.
Village Drummer Fiction/Richard Alan
Wonderful review. Like Tiffany’s husband, I really don’t care for musicals. My wife has seen Les Miz five times in various theaters, including twice on Broadway. So we will be seeing it soon. I know she’ll love it. I’ll try to keep an open mind.
Oh wow, I can’t imagine seeing it on Broadway. I’ve seen it 3 times during the US Tours, but it’s been several years. Definitely keep an open mind – it’s not as muscial-ly as the stage play, lol.
I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I loved the play and sorry to say my review of the movie is not the same as yours. I thought parts of it were outstanding but that Russell Crowe was so badly miscast that it hurt the rest of the performances. Anne Hathaway did a good job but it’s hard to compare her to other performances when it comes awards time. I saw Lincoln just today and she’s got a fight on her hands from Sally Field. That being said, I remember the first time I saw it on stage and I could not move for several minutes when it was over, it was that good. I’m glad you got that feeling from the movie.
I need to see Lincoln. I’ve heard Sally Field was awesome from numerous people. We’ll have to agree to disagree about Russell Crowe:) I actually liked the rawness of the movie. To me, the way they sang made it more realistic, if that makes any sense.
Thanks so much for your comment! Glad you enjoyed Lincoln so well.