03 January 2013

Les Miserables: Do you hear the people sing?

Enroljas and Marius

I got a little behind with my end-of year posts in 2012 because of some health issues in my family.  On Christmas Eve Eve (or Dec 23), my husband had to go to Mass General hospital in Boston because he woke up that morning in terrible back pain, unable to move the fingers on his left hand. Yikes!  I went with him, and despite the many tests, includinh two MRIs, nothing was conclusive so they discharged us around 5:30 am on Christmas Eve. On Boxing Day (or Dec 26) my mom had to have surgery to have a cancerous growth removed, and while she was in the hospital she had a minor heart attack. Double yikes!

Now I am writing from Wisconsin, where I am ensconced in my mother's condo, taking care of both of them. Though admittedly my husband is doing pretty well, despite lacking motor control over the fingers on his left hand, and my mom is doing better than I expected.  We're taking it easy, which means there's lots of time for napping and reading, but in my true family fashion, we're also able to make time for drinking and games. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephews are all ill, and one nephew has just been laid off, but we feel as if we still have plenty to celebrate, what with my mom's recovery and my husband's good spirits.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean/24601
Yesterday we went to go see the film Les Miserables, based on the musical of the same name, which is based on the book of the same name, written by Victor Hugo (and thus legitimizes my blogpost as bookish). While I've long loved the musical numbers from Les Mis, this book ranks among the best I've ever read.  It's really got it all: history, philosophy, politics, humanity, romance, action, intrigue. And despite that century's tendency to overwrite everything, it winnows down to a timeless storyline.

When earlier in 2012 I heard that (1) Les Mis was being made as a movie-musical, and (2) that Hugh Jackman had been cast as Jean Valjean, I immediately started counting down the days until its end-of-year release.  Believe you me, I was looking forward to this film more than any other film adaptation of the year, including Lincoln, The Hobbit, Life of Pi, and Breaking Dawn II. (Hah!  Just kidding about that last one!) So when my mom, her partner, my sister, and my husband settled into our seats, popcorn at the ready, we were all aflutter with excitement as the lights went down.

Russell Crowe as Javert
I was fully expecting to love this film beyond all others, but I ended up merely liking it a good deal.  My main interest in the film, Hugh Jackman, I felt was the weakest link among the main characters. While his acting was just fine, his singing voice sounded strained for most of the big numbers.  Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert, whom I expected to be tolerable at best, turned out to be the biggest highlight of the film for me. It's true that he relied on recitative moreso than the other main characters, and that his voice isn't as large as those men who played the role on stage, but I felt he really shone.
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Anne Hathaway was as terrific as I expected her to be and made me wish that Fantine had a larger role.  I have actively disliked Amanda Seyfried in the past, but I have to admit that her singing role in the uber-light Mamma Mia did nothing to prepare me for how lovely and purely altitudinous her soprano was. Much has already been made of Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne as Eponine and Marius, respectively, and I have nothing new to add to that discussion, but the other standout performance from my point of view was new-to-me Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

No doubt this will be a film that I will purchase once it's available on DVD, if for nothing else than to see the behind-the-scenes features of the making of the movie.  I liked it very much. But love it?  I'm sorry to say that I did not.

NB: That does not, however, mean that the lyrics from the various songs are live-streaming through my head at any given moment of the day now. I like to sing and have no compunction about belting out random bits of words from time to time, so I may well startle someone in the midst of their grocery shopping with "the blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!"  Or with mockery exclaim, "I am the law and the law is not mocked!"


  1. Wow, sorry to hear about everything going on in your family. It's very impressive to hear that spirits are up though - yay for a positive outlook! I hope everybody gets better soon!

    I've been torn about whether to see this. I saw Les Mis on Broadway in high school and actually didn't love it, though I think that's largely due to my not having any idea what was going on. Then I saw my high school's performance and DID like it, but probably because by then I did know what was going on. I still didn't love it though - but I do love Anne Hathaway as an actress. Decisions, decisions...it'll probably come down to whether I have enough free passes to the movies lol. And also positive reviews...

    1. Thanks! but yes, it's worth seeing, and worth seeing on the big screen at that. I look forward to your review when it comes!

  2. I'm sorry your holidays were full of so many hospital visits, though I'm glad your husband and mother are doing better now.

    I came out of the movie just liking it as well, although the more I think about it (and realize that OF COURSE it's not going to exactly match my memories of the original stage version so I should get over it) I like it much more. I was a bit eh on Jackman's voice although I thought it was SO MUCH BETTER than Crowe's. Crowe's acting was fantastic, but his singing was still such a disappointment for me. I wanted Stars to be so much better.

    I do plan on buying the DVD when that comes out. And probably the soundtrack, should they release it. Even with my problems with the singing...

    1. Thanks! I was totally surprised by how much I liked Crowe's voice and thought it suitable for the role. And I agree with you--the movie has completely stayed with me and I will, no doubt, be purchasing it on DVD. If for nothing else than to see all of the behind-the-scenes special features!

  3. *hugs you and your woes* But it'll get better! And it sounds like it already is, so hurray. Also HEY over there in Wisconsin, which is, as we've mentioned, not-far-at-all. If you guys want to swing by Chicago before you leave, we could totally grab food.

    "his singing voice sounded strained for most of the big numbers." -- ACCURATE. I went into this movie with almost no expectations. I wasn't expecting to see it, but my friend asked me as a last minute thing. I barely know the musical, so I wasn't hugely attached to anyone's interpretation, but Jackman's singing was NOT good for that character. Every time he was onscreen, I kinda tuned out, to be honest.

    And Russell Crowe...I dunno, he shouldn't be singing Javert. 'Stars' is a huge song and shouldn't be sung by a non-singer. If you haven't heard Bryn Terfel do it, you SHOULD because omg.

    Anne Hathaway was a.maz.ing. I had no idea. The fact that I Dreamed a Dream was one take, and just a head and shoulders shot of her and it was still SO RIVETING, agh. She was fantastic. I also liked Amanda Seyfried, but I like her in general. And Cosette's kind of a thankless role.

    Aaron Tveit + Eddie Redmayne = also excellent.

    1. *hugs back* thanks.

      I don't understand why Jackman is getting so many accolades. And I agree that a number like "Stars" deserves a bigger sound, but I really respect what Crowe did as a non-singer to carry the role. This might sound counterintuitive, and it may just because of my skewed expectations for each of the male leads, but compared with Jackman as Valjean, I thought Crowe did more with less for his role as Javert And not just 'cause he and I have the same last name.

  4. *BIG HUGS* for all the family things. But I'm glad your mum's recovering well and your husband's staying cheerful- those are the main things, I think.

    I haven't read or seen any kind of version of Les Mis, but I really really want to see the film because... It looks awesome and I just do and also it's about time I saw something to do with Les Mis (I do know like one song from it. But that's it.) I am well miffed that it's apparently a well established thing that Fantine dies early on because I DID NOT KNOW THIS. But now I do. Hmph.

  5. So sorry to hear of your family's health challenges. After significant lower back/si joint issues this last year or so, my heart went out to your hubby as soon as I read your first paragraph. I wouldn't wish all the pain, doctors appointments, and tests on any one - much less such a couple like yourselves. I hope that they figure out the source of his numbness and issues soon, and in the meantime you are both able to find some solace in Milwaukee hibernation.
    Best regards,

  6. Well, I totally (totes) loved Les Mis and thank you both for taking me with y'all. I'm sure it greatly benefitted my recovery.

  7. this was a fun movie. i am not a musical person so i can't comment on the quality of the singing, only that i enjoyed it. i can't stand russell crowe but he was pretty tolerable!

  8. I am really excited about this readalong. Everyone was the HP age I think, except for me. I was just a little old. I'm going to like this though.


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