Movie Review: ‘Les Misérables’


After debating back and forth whether or not I wanted to brave the hectic crowds at the movie theater on Xmas Day yesterday, I decided late last night to bundle up and head out to see Les Misérables at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood. Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I am not a fan at all of Les Miz — the book, the music, the songs, the musical — but, based on what I had seen of this new theatrical production, I was intrigued to see this movie and see if I could become a fan. On the plus side, I can honestly say that this new film version of Les Miz is the best production of the story that I’ve ever seen. Still, it wasn’t really enough to turn me into a Les Miz fan. That being said, I did enjoy myself and generally found myself entertained.

The two biggest weaknesses of this new incarnation of Les Misérables, for me, was Russell Crowe’s “singing” and the very long runtime length. Crowe’s casting is squarely the fault of producers. The runtime couldn’t be avoided. I thought all of the principle actors did a great job with their roles. I was really impressed with Anne Hathaway’s performance and Hugh Jackman, I mean, he is the star. Russell Crowe, IMHO, was very badly cast as Javier. He looked the part, I guess, but in the whole of the world they couldn’t find an actor who could not only look the part but sing the part as well? I literally cringed every single time Crowe opened his mouth to sing. It’s really bad. The film runs really long … like, really long. This wouldn’t be a problem if the excitement level was maintained thru out but once the revolution starts in the second half, the story drags on and on and on. The “hit” songs are sung mostly in the first half so there isn’t even music to keep the excitement level high as the film ends. The film is gorgeous to look at tho. The direction and production are stunning. I was very impressed with all of the live singing (the vocals were recorded as they actors acted out their scenes, not in a recording studio). I can see why Les Miz fans are loving this film but, again, I can also understand the complaints of others. Of the many reviews I’ve read from publications and individuals, people either LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie or they hate hate hate it. I’m somewhere in between. The things I don’t like are mainly not the fault of producers. I’m not a fan of the source material so, it’s a hard sell for me. But I was impressed overall and, as I said, it’s the best production of Les Miz I’ve ever seen. If you are a fan of the book/musical/music, then I think you might really enjoy this film. If you’re not a musical person, then I’d suggest skipping Les Miz.

Not much to share on the personal front. The past few days have been extremely difficult and painful for me. It’s been a bit of a relief to zone out and preoccupy my mind with other things but the in between moments where I’m left to dwell … none of it has been very fun. I’m looking forward to the day when I can fell “normal” again but I cannot see that day just yet. Blah.

  • LiQue

    Good to hear , I’ve heard horrible things about the movie, but will give it a go. and for the personal front HANG IN THERE!!! i know the feeling you’ll make it thru!

  • Samantha

    I’m torn about seeing this movie. I love a good musical but the length of the movie is a huge turn off for me. I’m so disappointed that The Great Gatsby was pushed to summer 2013. That was going to be my Christmas movie!
    As for the extremely difficult and painful days :-( I guess it is one of those things that has to be taken one day at a time, surrounded by people who love you, while allowing yourself time to grieve and heal.

  • Jayne

    I really hope 2013 brings you inner peace and happiness mate. Movies are wonderful for leaving our own worlds for a few hours aren’t they. Sending hugs from Australia.

  • KJ

    This is exactly how I feel about Les Mis in general – the story just doesn’t appeal to me in any particular medium.
    Hang in there, man. Now that Christmas day has passed, you’ll have plenty of friends and family that will be more than available to spend time and make memories with you! Christmas day can be quite awkward or quite memorable depending on your situation, but you made it through and now you’ve got the whole rest of the holiday season. Best.

  • Deb Hodgon

    Sad that you’re not doing so well at the moment Trent. I really hope that you’re feeling better soon.
    I love me some Russell, but he’s no singer. He had a band down here a few years ago. No, stick to acting mate. I have a hard time sitting through movies at the best of times, so it really has to keep me entertained.. Also, I hate shelling out $20 to see something I’m not really interested in. I really wanted to see Les Mis, even though I’m not a huge fan, but have heard a few people saying it’s ökay”. Guess I’ll be waiting until it comes out on Box Office.

  • shadowcatt

    I am a HUGE Les Mis fan. I’ve been listening to the musical recording pretty much non-stop since 1993, lol.

    I listened to the “Highlights” album today, and I have to say I was really impressed with Eddie Redmayne. Aside from Anne and Hugh, which we all knew could sing, I had no idea about Eddie. He sounded the closest to an actual professional singer than most of the other lead roles, including actual professional Samantha Barks… And I have to agree that poor Russel’s vocals are abysmal :(

    But, I’m only judging the vocal performances. I am looking forward to seeing this to judge the acting performances as well before I give my final verdict.

    • @shadowcatt — As a long time fan, please let us know what you think after you see it. I’m dying to hear what you think of this production.

    • shadowcatt

      OK, so I just got done seeing this, and I can say that it was glorious!!! Being able to see the emotions drawn so raw on the screen really made the story feel so much more personal than seeing it on stage or listening to the recording. Now that I’ve seen Russel Crowe’s performance, I feel that his singing style was really spot-on; Javert is a “black and white”, “by the book” kind of person, so having Crowe sing the song straight without much embellishment or emotion kind of worked for me. As for Hugh, there were some parts where the song called for a bit more subtlety, like in Bring Him Home, and he sang it a bit too forced.

      So, all in all, it was a more emotional, more raw version of the story and music than I was expecting, but I loved it all the more because of it.

    • Daniel

      THANK YOU! I thought Russel Crowe did a fabulous job with the singing–“Stars” is one of my favorite songs/scenes from the film.

    • @shadowcatt — “Javert is a “black and white”, “by the book” kind of person, so having Crowe sing the song straight without much embellishment or emotion kind of worked for me”

      Interesting. That thought did occur to me, the flat affect of his singing as intentional.

  • Bekah

    I was never a huge Les Mis fan before (I’d seen the musical and the 1998 film), but I definitely appreciated the story as I’d spent many years studying French history / philsophy and living in Paris. I saw the movie today and I not only loved it, but I was totally blown away and I did not expect to enjoy it that much. I felt the casting was spot on (even Russel Crowe) and the production was beautiful. However, your review is how the rest of my companions felt.

  • Hubert

    omg i wasn’t a Les Miz fan when I saw the musical as a kid… (too deep, didn’t understand the french revolution… too long). I was hoping my this film would convert me, cos many of my friends think i’m weird for not LOVING Les Miz…. and sad to say, it didn’t. If anything, it reaffirmed my plain dislike for the story. Haha.

    And happy holidays Trent!! Been a huge fan for over 6 years. Love, from Singapore :DDDD

  • Desi

    I agree with you on this one Trent. Not a huge Les Miz fan, though some of the music I like. I thought Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne were great. Hugh Jackman good and Russel Crowe pretty bad. They should have cast Norm Lewis as Javert. I also didn’t like Amanda Seyfried’s singing…was too flinty and grating…just didn’t sound good.
    Also…why did the people all have British accents…and even cockney (the little boy, etc..)…it’s set in France! :-)

    • @Desi — “why did the people all have British accents…and even cockney (the little boy, etc..)…it’s set in France!”

      OMG, was that not the most ridiculous thing ever? I mean, I get why they had to use English but to use British accented English was just so weird.

  • Tess

    Les Miz is my favorite book of all time but I never really felt compelled to see the musical. I did tho for the movie after seeing the trailer. So I too, braved the lines and saw it. I’m left feeling it could’ve been so much more. At the end of the day, it had the look of a filmed play/musical. Even the barricade at the end looked like stage props. I never once forgot I was in a movie theater. Very “meh” review from a huge Hugo & Les Mis fan.

  • Keely

    Always considered myself a fan of Les Mis even though I’ve never had the opportunity to see the musical on stage… during my highschool years I listened to the soundtrack nonstop.

    I loved the movie. Love, love, love. I seem to be in the minority in that I enjoyed Crowe’s take on Javert. He may not have the most powerful voice, but for my interpretation of Javert, it worked. Also putting me in the minority is that while I though she looked the part (as well as having the ability), I was not as pleased with Samantha Bark’s version of Eponine. Something about it irked me.

    Anne and Jack were fantastic, as expected. I was very impressed with the child actors, especially the boy that played Gavroche.

    Yep, adored this movie. Plan on seeing it again, once the crowds have dispersed more.

  • John

    Couldn’t agree with you more on your review! As far as the personal front, hang in there Trent! Unfortunately we have to live through the hard times to really appreciate all the great ones. Time is on your side, you’ll get there. Chin up!

  • Erica

    I’ve seen the show 4 times on Broadway and I’ve loved it since I was about 12. As a long time fan, I actually really didn’t like the movie. I know Hugh Jackman could sing but he wasn’t hitting the notes as powerful as the Broadway actors that I’ve seen. I know it’s part of doing your own interpretation of the role, but the songs have a certain power that need to be met to convey the message. Anne was amazing, she saved it for me. I was so ready to love it, but it really felt like a dud to me.

    Sending you tons of love, Trent from San Francisco. Stay strong.