Thursday, June 13, 2013

MOVIE WEEKEND: LES MISERABLES

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I present for your consideration the very interesting Les Miserables (2012, Rated PG-13, Available on DVD).



The Hurricane and I saw the trailer for Les Miserables back in December when Hurricane whirled and twirled and insisted I must see Lincoln on a big screen (she was right). The trailer caught our eyes and tempted us, but I'm glad we didn't succumb. This movie is long and has so much going on that I think I would have been uncomfortable in a movie theater seat (as opposed to the theater seats in my family room), without the ability to pause the movie for a water and potty break, and my eyes would have started to ache from all the light and commotion on the big screen.

Why don't long movies have intermissions the way they did when I was a kid? Is it because people are more easily distracted now, and don't mind taking their eyes off the screen in order to buy a soda? I don't want to miss a single minute of a movie that's at all likable.

But, ah, I digress.

Although reactions to this movie seem to be mixed, I'm glad I watched the DVD, and I'm grateful that Lovely Rita from SoulComfort's Corner told me not to see any other versions of Les Miserables first. She said that a better rendition of the movie would ruin the most current edition for me. I rarely disagree with Lovely Rita.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables features Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who has served many years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child. At the beginning of the movie, he's released and decides to break parole so he can begin life anew. After Jean Valjean becomes a mayor and successful businessman, he adopts Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), and raises her as his own child when her mother, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), dies, but he is always aware of the hunt for him conducted by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).

At first, I felt overwhelmed by the non-stop singing in this movie. Very few words are spoken. But then I started to enjoy it. I recognized a couple of the songs, and enjoyed many I'd never heard before, especially the raunchy and amusing "Master of the House," sung by the Thenadiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter). I felt particularly impressed by the work of the children in the film, including Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche.

It seems to me to be an overwhelming task to have the actors sing live instead of recording their songs and lip synching them as is usually done for musicals, so Les Mis represents a remarkable achievement. Russell Crowe is the one weak link in the movie. His voice isn't quite up to the task, and he doesn't give off the air of malicious authority that Javert should have. I'm not an Amanda Seyfriend fan, but she's okay. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are very good. Hathaway deserved her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for managing to look so gaunt and ravaged and for sobbing while singing. I'm a big Helena Bonham Carter fan, so I was happy to see her in a part.

I give Les Miserables The Janie Junebug Seal of Approval. I don't think it's appropriate for children, what with prostitutes and thieves and killings. I have no idea if it would interest teens. You know your kids. I don't. I think it would be worthwhile for teenagers to watch it if it helps them develop compassion.

Now, having said all that, a couple of weeks after I watched the DVD, I watched The 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables In Concert, recorded on PBS by my close personal friend, DVR. Oi! Was I amazed. The quality of the singing was so much higher. It increased my respect for the music, and made me long to see a Broadway-quality production of the show.

I haven't yet watched any other movie version of Les Mis, but I look forward to seeing some. The DVD of Les Miserables definitely piqued my interest.

Happy Movie Watching!

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

25 comments:

  1. When Les Mis first came out at the theaters, I was stoked because I love the story. I did not tell my poor husband of the length or that it was a musical all the way through. He enjoyed a little nap during the movie, since action pics are more his genre, and it did prove a little long even for me, but I was so impressed with Anne, Helena, and most of the other actors (like you, though not with Russell.

    I am glad we went, and my husband was happy to get a little shut-eye.

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    1. I'm glad you like it, and pleased your husband enjoyed his nap. I don't think I could fall asleep with so much happening on the screen.

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  2. Hi Janie .. oddly enough I'm going to see the film at an art gallery theatre on Saturday evening .. so am grateful for a few reminders about the singing etc .. and for the brief resume - I shall be interested to see what I think!

    Great - thanks for posting this week and not next! Cheers Hilary

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    1. I hope you like it. Let me know, please.

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  3. I own the 1935 and 1998 versions, and am searching for the 1978 TV movie (with Tony Perkins as Javert) and the 1952 version (with Disney's Long John Silver, Robert Newton, as Javert). Love the story! And it all started with my reading an old comic book adaptation back in 1968!

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    1. Cool! Have you ever seen the musical onstage?

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    2. No, but I own a documentary filmed for the musical's tenth anniversary (IIRC). I also own a 1958 version. Forgot to mention that.

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    3. Does the documentary include the show, or is it just about the show? I ask because I think a tenth anniversary edition of the show exists.

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    4. Just about the show. Wish I could remember more about it. It's packed up at the moment and I'm not even sure which box of VHS tapes contains it!.

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  4. I've seen this performed on the stage several times but have yet to see the movie. Must add it to my viewing list.

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    1. I hope you find it interesting and not disappointing.

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  5. Les Mis was one of my all time favorite stage shows. I didn't know it was available on DVD yet. I just ordered it--THANKS!!

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    1. Please be aware that this version is not a stage show that's been filmed. It's a huge movie -- very long and with lots of commotion, yet I read that some songs from the original were cut for the movie.

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  6. This one was tough for me. I liked all the actors in it, and am in fact a Seyfried fan. I wish they had worked a little more on the singing, but then again the director wanted to catch the actual performance on camera instead of laying a track over it so I can respect that. I still have some mixed feelings as to whether I enjoyed it or not.

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    1. I know what you mean. I have mixed feelings about it, too, so I didn't give it my highest seal of approval, but I think it's worth watching.

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  7. I think I'd like to see it on Broadway. Maybe someday I will.

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  8. I went to see this in the theater. You bring up a good point about it being so long, but it had so much going on that the time seemed to fly by! A lot of people I know said they cried when they saw it. I didn't, not even when that cute little blonde haired brat took one in the chest. Nope, cuz I'm a bad ass and that's how I roll.

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    1. I teared up once or twice, but didn't actually cry. I guess I'm a little bit of a bad ass, too -- occasionally.

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  9. I know Russell Crowe is in a band...does he sing in it? Your review sounded more like a JJ Seal of Approval "Plus."

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    1. I don't know if he sings in the band. I imagine he does. I've never given a seal of approval plus. I'll have to consider that possibility. I was leaning towards my kinda sorta seal of approval, but decided to go with the regular seal.

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  10. You already know that I liked it okay, but that I really enjoyed other versions better. There are some great songs in the musical versions, but I love the ones that are just movies the best. I do agree that it is worth seeing, but would also say--watch other ones, too. It's a great story. :)

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    1. I'll definitely get to the other movies eventually. You know how many movies are in my Netflix queue, although I'm a "lightweight."

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  11. So behind on reading and commenting! I haven't seen this movie, although I've wanted to. I've seen the stage show, but I've heard great things about the movie. I think I've been deterred by it's length...and because I know how sad and depressing it is. I'll get to it, though :)

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    1. I didn't feel depressed by it. I thought it was pretty stirring.

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