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Les Miserables Review

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(copied from Facebook. Posted on Christmas Day)

SPOILERS ABOUND!

Merry Christmas, internet. So... as many of you know, I love Les Miserables. It is by far my favorite musical ever. And as you also know, the film version came out today. I just got done seeing the 3-hour epic and...

I liked it. I'm sure that's not a surprise to anyone, but I liked the movie. First off, I got my Christmas wish of getting to see it with Kelsey. That alone made it a memorable occasion. That said, let me first address some minor things that bugged me... just a little. No fan rage, I promise.

Again, spoilers. Seriously.

-Song ordering. Yeah, they moved around the order that the songs are performed. Stars is performed before "Look Down (Paris)", "On My Own" is performed just after "A Heart Full of Love", and "I Dreamed a Dream" isn't done until after "Lovely Ladies." The biggest reorder of all was also the one that actually scared me. As some of you might have noticed, the song "Do You Hear the People Sing" was not listed as being in the Highlights Soundtrack that came out last week. And the song is not sung in the film right after "Red and Black." I was legitimately worried the song had actually been cut from the film, but instead it was placed after "One Day More" as Les Amis des ABC began the revolution. This... actually worked. Hearing the crowd break into this song as they stormed the funeral procession and began waving the banners of freedom made for a very powerful and effective scene. So I'm okay with this one. But the song ordering being changed is noticeable if you really know the show.

-Lyric changes/cuts. And this is not really a surprise. Every production changes the lyrics a little. But there are some lyrics, such as Marius wondering who saved him from the barricades, that get cut out altogether. The worst offender is HALF of "Drink With Me." Grantaire never got his solo bit where he asks, "Will the world remember you when you fall? Can it be your death means nothing at all? Is your life just one more life?" In my opinion, that's a very powerful question to be asking the students when they're at the barricade and they've just finished the first battle. But yeah, that entire half of the song gets cut (as well as most of the other students singing the opening of the song).

And there are of course just minor lyric changes that really aren't that bad. There's only one awkward part where Jackman sings the lyrics "I run a business of repute. I am the mayor of this town" but in the reverse order. It works... kind of.

-Russel Crowe. Okay, I know a lot of people are divided on his performance. Honestly, he was good. Kelsey made the point that he got the right emphasis and tone for the part. But I think his singing was just okay. Acting was good. Singing was okay. He's not Nick Jonas, but compared to the rest of the main cast he doesn't hold up as well in vocals. "Stars" was less powerful than it should have been.

-"Master of the House." More low-key than normal, but still energetic (the random Santa Clause is kinda confusing though). Carter and Cohen make a great Thenardier pair. Still, wasn't the rambunctious performance I expected for this particular song. It worked, but it was off-putting at first.

Okay, so now for the stuff I did like.

-Hugh Jackman. Awesome Val Jean. 'nough said.

-Anne Hathaway. Awesome Fantine. 'nough said.

-Eddie Redmayne. Amazing Marius. I'd rank him on par with the legendary Michael Ball. His performance of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" really must be experienced for its sheer power.

-The singing. Barring Crowe, the singing was really good.

-The acting. Also really good.

And a bunch of other things, like Gavroche. He's done incredibly well. There are also added scenes taken from the original novel that flesh out the story more, fill a couple plot holes, and add to the overall experience. That was well done. The new songs were also very nice. "Suddenly" feels much like "Heaven's Light" from Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And the mother of all awesomeness...

-Aaron Tveit as Enjolras. My favorite character played by a phenomenal actor. I was not disappointed. Enjolras was the leader he should be, his singing was powerful and beautiful, and his death is both tragic and heroic. And Grantaire dying with him like in the novel is a nice added touch. There was one bit that Kelsey pointed out where he seems to act a bit too quickly to Lamarque's death (for the record, Ramin Karimloo did that part best. Seriously, watch him during the song "Red and Black" in the 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2). However, it didn't really detract from the overall performance. The revolution was incredibly well done in this film and Aaron was the superb Enjolras to lead it. Bravo.

So, to end this looooooooooooong review, I'd like to say one thing to anyone who is still going to see it. Don't expect a Broadway musical. The singing is live. It's emotional. It's real. They don't try to be pretty. They don't try to belt it out. They try to tug at your heartstrings and make you feel as they do. And that is where this movie succeeds. For a film that has been in development hell for 27 years, in which all the singing is done live on-set, and with an all star cast such as this, I have no choice but to call it a success. Nitpicks aside, this film was a cinematic achievement. This is a different style, a different sound, and different look, but it's still the Les Miserables we all know and love. It's a show about hope, about love, about redemption and forgiveness, and about the never ending struggle of life. Les Mis, Cameron Mackintosh, Tom Hooper, and all of you cast and crew who made this movie a reality... Here's to them, and here's to you. Bravo.

Final Score: 10/10.

But seriously, what was with all the close-ups? :p

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  1. Jabberwocky's Avatar
    "Do You Hear the People Sing"'s fakeout-omission scared me for a bit too! My sister looked at each other when "One More Day" started up like "oh shit act I's over, where's DYHPS?" Such a relief when it was included after all.

    I agree that Crowe was mostly just OK, though he nailed it where it counted (i.e. "Stars," "The Confrontation," and "Javert's Suicide"). His and Valjean's dynamic was perfect (it helps that Jackman and Crowe despise one another).

    I liked Jackman overall, though his singing wasn't powerful enough for my taste ("Who Am I" in particular was very weak).

    The Thenardiers were cast perfectly. Cohen had me in stitches the whole time.

    I also loved that the original Valjean was the bishop, and the finale was done amazingly. Agreed with the 10/10 score. Excellent film.

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