Thursday, February 7, 2013

a long overdue review of the great Les Mis


I began writing a review of Les Misérables a couple days after seeing it for the first time, and let me tell you that it started out much differently than I hope this is going to be. I've seen it again since, and it was even better than the first time because I was able to look for and appreciate more little things rather than trying to take in the enormity of the big picture. And big it was--wow, such a huge undertaking. I do not envy the filmmakers who decided to take on this massive project. They had a lot of people counting on them.

the bishop had caused the dawn of virtue on his horizon; cosette evoked the dawn of love
So let me begin.  First off, I know if you follow me on tumblr or twitter, you probably see Les Mis fandom things pretty often.  A lot of people know I love Les Mis. I kind of...talk about it a lot. ahem. But, I think perhaps fewer people know how much LesMisismylife. Like, in a slightly pathetic way that I'm nonetheless rather unapologetic about.  Needless to say, the making of this film terrified me in an exciting way. I forced myself to have high hopes.

will you permit it?
After seeing the movie on Christmas night, I was shoved into this state of almost shallow feeling.  I was compelled to say that I liked it, because it was my beloved Les Mis, but I couldn't tell if I loved it, or even if there was a part of me that hated it.  The part that I could feel the most was others' reactions to it--I wanted, more than anything, so badly, for everyone to love this story that I felt and feel is so incredibly beautiful and life-changing.  And I think everything that hurt about this film hurt a lot more for that reason.  Because as much as I wanted to pick apart every detail about the quality of singing and differences from the stage show, it was still, to me, Les Mis.  And there were so many things in that movie that I'm convinced were thrown in there just for the fandom--obscure West End actors, special moments from the book that hadn't made it into the show--all in all almost unbearably thrilling.

and then, do you know, monsieur marius, I believe I was a little in love with you

But for others, who did not know this story by heart, it pained me that Marius and Cosette had only one day together.  It pained me that Grantaire didn't get his solo in "Drink With Me."  It pained me that Russell Crowe didn't come close to doing justice to one of the most epic literary antagonists of all time.  It pained me that this and that and the other thing were left out or changed, because it scared me that this was the only Les Mis many people will ever know, and everything must be perfect for this cherished, almost hoarded story to be brought to the public so vulnerably.

remember that name: fantine. fall on your knees whenever you pronounce it
A little time went on and I began to have a different perspective.  Yes, I will forever hear Philip Quast's voice for Javert, and there are individual lines that I miss (yes. lines. I know this thing by heart.), and not everything was accurate, and it all whirled by so quickly.  But Les Mis is open to the public.  All of a sudden I saw the swell of admiration for this beautiful story, over the internet or with every friend that texted me saying they finally understood.  There's a Les Mis movie, guys. How crazy amazing is that?


the power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in
I think Bethany put it best in her post (which, by the way, probably speaks more accurately what I feel than all of my ramblings):


The story is sure to be talked about, discussed, seen, appreciated, and yes, under-appreciated too. But the important thing is it's getting shared and spoken and screamed and played out in front of people's eyes and in people's souls.

Yeah, it's going to be under-appreciated as well, and that really does kill me a little inside, because as epic and brilliant as the film was, it is better onstage (go see it if you ever have a chance) and of course, as the original novel.  It couldn't do justice to everything, no, but you know what's funny?  The movie has been much more widely acclaimed by the general public than by critics--just as the stage show was when it opened 28 years ago, and just as the 1862 novel was before that.  And that's strangely fitting for a story like Les Misérables, that it is most popular with the people, just as it has been for years.


a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible
And in other news, the movie has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and if Anne Hathaway doesn't win that Oscar I don't know what I'll do.  And if you never saw it, you should check out Vogue's shoot of the cast (by Annie Leibovitz, some of whose work I've seen in person and who I happen to really, really like).  And thank goodness for Colm Wilkinson, and Hadley Fraser. And Aaron Tveit and George Blagden (E/R forever), and--never mind I'm not going to name the rest of the amis because it would take too long, but seriously they were wonderful in a heart-wrenching way.  And little Gavroche, oh you make me cry (but let's be real, all of the barricade boys do).  And do you realize I was quoting pieces of the book to you in the photo captions?!  So good.  I could go on.  Les Misérables, you will never stop being close to my heart.

Did you see the film?  Were you acquainted with the story at all beforehand?  Thoughts/opinions?  Please oh please, do tell.  I love a good chat about Les Mis.

19 comments:

  1. Hi Jenn,
    I'm so glad you wrote this! You should know that you are a big part of why I started reading the book; but, because I'm reading the real thing(unabridged), I'm not done yet. I don't want to see the movie or the play until I've finished it; I can't wait! Now to find a good stage production of it in my area...
    -Kayla

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    1. I don't even think you know how happy it makes my heart that I had just a tad bit of an influence in having anyone read such an epic book. *tears of joy* hehe.
      SO glad you're reading it unabridged--that's the way to go! but yes yes, wait for the movie/play...that's what I did, and it's just even better that way. :)

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  2. JENN... DON'T KILL ME BUT I STILL HAVEN'T SEEN LES MIS. I'm breathing, but barely.. I already know it's going to be my favorite movie ever. I know it.

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  3. Ah, so you wrapped up everything I felt about this beautiful film perfectly. Good job! I actually learned about Les Mis from following your blog in the past few years, I then read the book, cried, watched the 25th, cried, watched 10th, and cried. Saw it on stage (cried) and bought the dvd. Then the movie announcement came out and I was terrified that things would be wrong, but so many things were right and beautiful and pure that, okay, I wept. Even the mistakes in casting somehow added to the real feel of the film, I thought. It's just.. ah. It's the best.

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    1. ....uhm so I was sitting in a coffeeshop when I read your comment, and I actually squealed out loud. like OH MY GOODNESS I INTRODUCED SOMEONE TO THE BEAUTY OF LES MIS I CAN DIE HAPPY. but seriously. yay. :))

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  4. Oh, I loved getting to hear your thoughts on this! :)
    I saw Les Mis a few days after Christmas, after having seen an amateur version of it a looong time ago and loving it. I'm actually really thankful that I was only partially acquainted with the story/musical when I saw the movie, because it allowed me to absolutely, non-distractedly fall in love with it - and then afterward get obsessed with the Broadway soundtrack [except I still can't stand Broadway Eponine's voice...] and really want to read the book [soon!]. And I do love that the movie format allows you to get right up close to the characters, because the characters in Les Mis are all so beautiful and important and being so near to them is so impacting. And then there's the fact that Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne were all in the same movie...that alone makes me pretty happy. :)
    And, okay, just going to end it here so I don't wind up writing you pages and pages of thoughts! I loved the book quotes under the pictures...so good! <3

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    1. readreadread the book. k cool.
      alsooo I would give some other versions of the Broadway soundtrack a chance, cuz the original Eponine DOES take a lot of getting used to. see if you can find the 25th anniversary tour soundtrack--I bet you'll like it better. but yay I'm so glad you're falling in love with it!!

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  5. I pretty much just scrolled through and looked at the pretty pictures because i wasn't sure whether or not there were spoilers, and i was supposed to go and see this opening day, but my guy was sick and i couldn't get anyone else to go with me, which is really and truly tragic, but whats really pathetic is that i still haven't gone and seen it, and even more tragic/pathetic is the fact that you live too far away to go and see it with me, so poo. #runonsentence

    anyway, so. exes and ohs.

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  6. Oh, goodness. I've been reading your blog for a long time, but this post was so me that I had to finally comment. I first saw Les Miserables on stage when I was six years old and I knew all the words and my parents had to stop me from singing along with the actors on stage.

    "will you permit it?" (this caption. yes. just yes. *sob*) having this visual of Chapter XXIII; Orestes Sober and Pylades Drunk made it the best scene in the movie. (Enjolras has always been my favorite character... long before the very charming and terrible Aaron Tveit played him. ;) )

    I could completely relate to your comments about the West End actors and the special moments from the book (like Gavroche's tear with his sister died). When Colm Wilkinson's name came on during the credits, I applauded... and I didn't care that I was the only one in the theatre doing so.

    Like you, I missed a lot of the little lines like hearing Enjolras proclaim, "Here upon these stones we will build our barricade" and Marius teasingly say, "Hey, little boy, what's this I see?"

    I agree with your thoughts on Russel Crowe, but I don't agree with you calling Javert an "antagonist." In my view, circumstances are the antagonist of the story and Valjean and Javert are both antagonists against each other, but neither are the true antagonist or protagonist of this epic story. Javert is not the villain or the "bad guy" he is just another character in this ensemble who has a story to tell just like the rest.

    Hopefully this comment wasn't too long (and I abridged it :P) I love to talk about Les Mis, but I don't often find anyone as passionate or as knowledgeable about it as I am. Feel free to send an email or comment back... I'd love to discuss the nuances of the film with you. :)

    Have a wonderful evening!

    -Cassandra

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    1. so first of all--you freaked me out a little because my sister's name is Cassandra and my middle name is Noelle and I was like "WHAT IS THIS." hahah.
      alllll of the things you said--ermahgersh, I'm so glad some people get little references like I do!! one of the lines I missed the most from Enjolras: "Grantaire, put that bottle down!" aah. yay Les Mis nerdiness.
      as for Javert, haha I actually rethought about that when I wrote "antagonist," because I feel the same way as you. it bothers me when people refer to him as the villain or bad guy, because he's not--he has only every done what he knows to be right. I do think "antagonist" is a more fitting word, however, because his story is, after all, the one in direct conflict not only with Jean Valjean's character, but also with the themes of grace & redemption throughout. so those are just my thoughts. it's a matter of wording, I think we agree. :)
      DON'T EVEN apologize for the long comment, these make my day! I would love to talk about Les Mis aaannytime. seriously, people who actually GET this stuff make me so so so happy.
      sigh. okay. I'll be done. :))

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    2. I've been meaning to reply for several days, but haven't found the time yet... I will get back with a more detailed response soon. Thanks for your reply! It's lovely to "meet" you. :)

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  7. I'm was kind of the same way actually. The first time I saw it, I didn't know what to expect. My twin is literally OBSESSED with it (she's actually considering having the song "Suddenly" as her first dance song) so I knew a little about it, but not much. After I saw it, my mom and sister are crying and while I teared up, my reaction was definitely not as strong. But then I realized that in the next few days, I couldn't keep it out of my mind. The story itself is incredible and the songs are wonderful. I kept listening to the soundtrack and so when I saw it the second time, I truly appreciated it. Even though the singing may not be Broadway-worthy; I thought it worked. It was more real, relatable, and emotional. The singing was raw. I honestly don't see how they could do a better job.

    I really want (and need) to read the book now, don't I? ;)

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    1. I know I know ahhh yes it really just sticks with you. and yeah. you know I'll always recommend the book. it's incredible. :)

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  8. hi!
    1. les mis is probably my favorite thing. ever.

    2. after a long time away, i've started blogging again at a new site: http://dreaming-in-rainbows.blogspot.com/ and i'd love it if you stopped by! :)

    sally

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  9. love. love. love. I identify with every bit of this.

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  10. Loved this review!


    P.S. I'm hosting my 100 followers giveaway if you would like to enter!
    http://www.alifeworthliving-katherine.blogspot.com/2013/02/my-100-followers-giveaway.html

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  11. Basically, I love you, our hearts are like one, and Les Mis is our baby.
    (sorry I forgot to comment earlier.)

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  12. This post makes me so happy, I agree with everything you've written.
    The movie was the best and I did know the story beforehand...I guess that made it a little harder, I didn't want to get too attached to the characters I knew would die. Didn't work in the end though :P And I cried for more than half of the movie!

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