Christmas was this week, and with it came the release of a few long-anticipated movies. While I would have loved to seen Django Unchained, I decided to take the family to see Les Miserables instead as a Christmas gift to them. I can see the less-family friendly Django this weekend.
When I initially saw the trailer for Les Mis, I was excited to see it. Not because I am a fan of the musical or book,* but because I am a fan of musicals in general. Being the child of my mother, I was raised with many musicals. Not only did we often drive around listening to show tunes in the car, but I often accompanied my mother to the local community college’s production of different musicals, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, among others.
*In fact, when I was in high school, I avoided AP English my senior year because it required reading the book over the summer, because, you know, a 17 year-old kid doesn’t want to spend the summer reading a humongous book. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would probably choose the class over the lame ass summer that I probably had at the time.
That said, I was still excited to see it. It looked pretty cool, and despite being naive of the story, I always like when people start singing in movies. Throw in the fact that all the actors were singing “live” on the set while filming the movie, and it was truly a new way to make a musical. I added it to the mental list of movies that I wanted to see this year and eagerly awaited the arrival of the film.
And then I watched the movie. Don’t get me wrong; the movie was good enough. But owing to the fact that I only loosely knew the story, I found parts of it boring and hard to follow. I was a little thrown when about 98% of the dialogue being sung, which made it feel more like an opera. I was expecting a little dialogue broken up with singing, not singing broken up with a line or two of dialogue. It made it hard to follow the story at some parts.
All the emotional parts were well done. I “cried” at all the points that you were supposed to, and many of the performances were top notch. At the same time, some of the casting choices were a little head scratching. Russell Crowe as Inspector Jalvert seems to be a choice based box office appeal and not singing ability, which hurts this important role. I’m willing to wager someone that had the singing chops could have brought the same performance to the role. Looking around the interwebs, this seems to be somewhat of a consensus, and I may have been more into the Jalvert stuff on screen if I wasn’t focusing on how bad Crowe sounded compared to everyone else.
The other casting choice that was a little off was Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier. I tend to like SBC when he shows up in supporting roles like this; I really liked his performance in Sweeney Todd, and his IMDB page says he’s working on a Freddie Mercury biopic as Freddie Mercury, so that should be awesome, but his performance in Les Mis was a little off for me. Again, ignorant of the book/musical, I understand that the Thenardiers are a bit of comic relief in a story full of sadness, but he was a bit over the top, even for the guy that brought Borat into the world.
If you are a fan of the book/musical, or just like musicals in general, I would recommend seeing the movie in theaters. It is enjoyable on the big screen, and is really beautifully shot. However, if you are naive of the story, I would recommend that you check out the synopsis somewhere so it is a bit easier to follow along with what is happening…but your methods may vary.
Until next time…