Friday (New) Favourites: Les Miserables

I admit I came late to Les Mis.

Despite being a young adult when it was in the theatre in my home town and despite studying French for many years and being a bit of a Victor Hugo fan, I didn’t go.  I don’t know why.  It’s possible that it fell in that window in which most of my money was spent on drinking and fast times. 😉

So when the movie came out I thought it was high time I caught up with this phenomenon.  So I went.  And I enjoyed it very much.  It was visually gorgeous and the performances were, in my humble opinion, excellent.  I thought the decision to use actors who could sing and record them as they acted was brilliant.   Anne Hathaway deserved that Oscar.  Her broken rendition of ‘I dreamed a dream’ was one of the most harrowing things I’ve seen on a screen in recent times.

But the upshot of all of this is that I get it now.  I get why people adore this musical.  There’s a great, sweeping story with love and death and heroism and vileness and more than a touch of madness, yes.  But the main attraction is the music.  It’s magnificent.  It’s infectious.  Indeed, after seeing the movie, I stomped around singing ‘I hear the people sing’ so many times that my darling daughter threatened to storm my barricades and make the streets run with my blood if I didn’t stop.

And it appears I am not alone in loving it.  You must watch this wedding video which is a great testament to the musical, to how much these people like the married couple (because there was rehearsal involved) and what can happen if you leave the choristers alone with the beer for too long…

The movie also had some delightful surprises in the minor parts.  One of them was Sascha Baron Cohen as the ‘Master of the House’.  Is there nothing that the man cannot do?  I admit, I do not especially like his comedy.  That style of thing makes me squirm – but I can see how clever it is.  Then, in Hugo (a truly delightful movie), I discovered he can really act drama as well.  Then in this movie, he proves he can sing. Very talented man!

And Helena – ah, Helena.  You have to love her.  History will remember her as one of the finest actresses of her age – and the number one go-to girl when your character is ‘crazy in a corset’.  Seriously, I do believe she’s cornered the market on these roles – and how well she does them!  Think about it: Bellatrix Lestrange, the Red Queen, this one, Miss Havisham…  Am I right?  I’m right.  Of course, she, too, is capable of many other things.  She was wonderful in the King’s Speech, in a very straight role.  And the bit in Harry Potter where she acted Hermione acting Bellatrix was so convincing that I had to remind myself that that was how it was done.  I completely believed she was Hermione magicked into Helena Bonham Carter’s body.  The skill!  Brilliant! And she’s fantastic as the horrid, venal Madame Thenardier in the movie of Les Mis.

I couldn’t find a clip of the visuals of their big number, but this video lets you concentrate on the lyrics, which is good, because they’re clever!

I will definitely be adding this to my DVD musical collection when it’s out, which I think is soon.

What about you?  Are you a musical fan?  Did you enjoy Les Mis?  Or would you rather have your toenails removed with pincers?  Whaddayareckon?

22 thoughts on “Friday (New) Favourites: Les Miserables

  1. Sorry, Imelda, I couldn’t disagree more. The director of the movie ruined a classic story. It was dead boring. One ‘never ending’ solo close up after another!

    However, I do have praise for the actors. They all the did good work. It’s a shame Hugh Jackman wasted his Oscar chances by appearing in such a bad movie (imo). My friend and I could not get out of the cinema fast enough. So there – put that in your pipe and smoke it! 🙂

    • Ah, I knew I would get some disagreement! Did you like the theatre show, JB? Just wondering whether it’s the musical treatment of the book you dislike or just this version. I think it was probably just as well that I haven’t seen it on stage and it’s a long time since I read the book. Also, I’m a sucker for actors who can sing, it must be said. I wonder if the director thought he was pleasing the theatre fans with the solo close-ups? De gustibus non es disputandem! Never a truer Latin aphorism! (with hopes I spelt it correctly)

      • Delete this if you already have this reply – it sort of disappeared and I don’t know where it went! Anyway, here goes again. I did not see the stage show so cannot compare. The movie just did not draw me into the story even though I wanted it to. I got the impression it was more about presenting actors than presenting a story. I wonder if Hugh Jackman was dropping a hint when he suggested in an interview that we should all read the book. Yeah, Hugh, I agree – read the book, forget the movie.

        • Hehe. I think it’s always hard for a movie to live up to a much-loved book. I find that if I really loved the book, I need to see the movie as a different thing to enjoy it. Also, this is a big leap. It’s almost an opera and that is a bit challenging in itself. Still, if it drives some new readers to Hugo, that’s a good thing, eh? Thanks for the conversation, JB!

  2. I cried through a lot of Les Mis – it was beautiful and heartbreaking and long. I know, the last was not a compliment like the others, but it needed to be said. My dad also cried. My mum was bored and claims it must have been a ‘father-daughter’ thing, yet she and I tear up in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, so I can never guess who will and will not connect with Les Mis.
    The wedding video in your post – loved it, a lot of talent… but it’s not a very romantic wedding song, is it? I was confused as to why they chose that one. Talented bunch, either way.
    It’s starting to become a bucket list item of mine to be somewhere a flash mob is. It would be both fun and surreal!
    And Helena? Imelda, you summed it up perfectly. She has cornered the market on crazy. I’m no longer surprised with some of her castings now, and she does it well.

    • It was indeed long, it must be said. I didn’t mind, but I did notice. You’re right, too, about the song not being terribly romantic. My sister said the same thing – said they should have rewritten the words into something more appropriate. But I get the impression that they just wanted to do something the couple loved and it is a great big dramatic number, with lots of parts for the many guests. I’d love to be in a flash mob too. Either spectating or participating. Maybe we should set up a Destineers one! 🙂

  3. If you want another freaky Helena Bonham Carter, check out her turn in Frankenstein and the ‘bride’ of the monster…! She is marvellous. And yes, I loved Les Mis too. I haven’t read the book, just seen the musical a few years ago in Sydney. That wedding clip is amazing – they all sounded fantastic!

    • Yes she was great in that, wasn’t she, Malvina? I didn’t even mention all the Tim Burton weirdo roles, as she’s known for them. But I see now that even other directors can’t go past her for the crazy. Glad you enjoyed it too!

  4. I first saw the stage show of Les Mis in Perth back in the early 90’s I’ll admit to being ambivalent about seeing the show. I was mesmerised from the very beginning. The music the actors – the irrepressible Rob Guest (RIP) as Jean Val Jean was fantastic. Peter Cousins as Marius (scrumptious). I didn’t notice how long the stage show was I was simply swept away by a great story and the romance between Marius and Cosette – well it warmed my romance author’s heart. I didn’t want the show to end and would have seen it over and over if I could’ve.

    Unfortunately I missed seeing the movie at the theatre but it’s out on DVD tomorrow in the US and I can’t wait to get it. I believe the movie is basically based on the stage show, so yes it will be about 2.5hours.

    I believe the casting of Helena and Sascha as those characters was perfect I can totally see Sascha in that role.

    Loved the flash mob wedding video – that song is one of my favourites from the show.

    • As far as I can tell, Nicki, it’s the stage musical plus more sweeping visuals, so yes, it is long! And the way they filmed it, with the songs recorded as they acted, is stage-like. I hope you like it! Isn’t that wedding flash-mob cool? I never get tired of it!

    • I’m glad I’ve found someone else who loved it! And if anything, I think the minor characters were some of the most memorable. The Thenardiers, the girl who died for Marius and that little kid – he should have got some sort of award!

  5. Haven’t seen the film yet but adored the stage musical. And I LOVE that flash-mob. How extraordinary. Would love to have been there!

    • Wouldn’t it have been fun, Louise? I reckon most of the guests were singing by the end! I also love that the went to the trouble. The people even looked like their parts. Loved it!

  6. Loved the wedding video. Also loved Sacha and Bellatrix (oops, Helena) and Marius, and the kid, and Eponine. But although I admit I cried at more than one time and I love the story, Anne’s big song left me cold (I thought she was melodramatic), and Hugh at times seemed a bit wet, and Amanda’s eyes are just weird. My fave song from the musical is “The songs of angry men” and I annoyed my youngest by singing along under my breath!

    • I will admit Anne was a bit hard to watch, but she did make me cry. Yes, the song of angry men is the one that I annoyed my child by singing around the house. I think the character of Val Jean is a character of the literature of the time and his apparent wetness I think is less Hugh’s fault than the character’s. But maybe that’s just me! Thanks for weighing in! I knew I’d get some reaction to this, as I know it isn’t universally admired. But what’s the fun in having an opinion if everyone agrees? 🙂

  7. Les Mis is magnificent in all of its manifestations (though I’d say the Musical is far better than the Movie). The songs are incredibly powerful, and as you so rightly said, the story is sweeping, but possibly the one thing that really raises it above most musicals and popular media of our time, is the element of tragedy. You simply don’t see that sort of tragedy in popular media these days (the Greeks would be deeply disappointed in us). Here you have a novel, musical and movie with so many intertwining stories that at least some element of it can resonate you, (unlike Phantom of the Opera, which is extremely successful, but you don’t hear people singing it out of context). What better example can I offer for the power of these songs and the resonance they have with people than Susan Boyle’s audition on Britain’s Got Talent, you can tell she really connects with the song:

    Les Mis is a masterpiece of musical theatre.

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