WARNING: The following review contains SPOILERS and was written by someone whose only authority comes from four years of high school theatre. All questions, comments, and concerns can be directed to Hugh Jackmen. He’s my secretary, and he loves talking on the phone.
Sacré blur, where do I begin? First of all, even though I peed right before the movie started, I spent the whole first half trying to decide when to leave again so I could rid myself of the three cups of coffee I had with breakfast. This made me kind of impatient and unwilling to cry, because once water came out my eyes, there was no telling where else it could come out. I crossed my fingers for an intermission.
Here is what I felt in the meantime: a lot.
Jean Valjean, played by my favorite DILF, Hugh Jackman, kind of looked like a rat terrier at the beginning of the movie, and worried me a little with his talk singing. It didn’t help that Russell Crowe, as Javert, accidentally wore the stewardess outfit from that movie with Mike Myers and Gwyneth Paltrow (his baby blue hat even had a tassel). However, I was excited by the big screen-ness and the mountains and the rawness of their live singing and beards.
I almost jumped out of my seat when Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean from the Broadway production, showed up in priest gear to play, well, the priest. Obviously. I mean, this is the same man who has been sitting regally upon the “Most Played” throne of my iTunes since I hit puberty and could finally sing all of his low notes. He’s more talented than all three Jonas brothers combined! I think his presence stirred a little something in Hugh as well, because his rendition of “What Have I Done?” made me want to cry. I mean, I didn’t, for fear of peeing, but Hugh’s revelation and belting were superb.
As someone who once considered myself a “theatre person” (as in, I wore a lot of peasant skirts, sang in public even when sober, and had recurring nightmares about prop misplacement), I was dreading what came next: Anne Hathaway. I am sick of hearing how she should win an Oscar because she didn’t eat for two weeks, something I hope absolutely no high school girls emulate when their chorus director decides to do a Les Mis medley in showchoir. Plus, the trailers only showed Anne whimpering, which I saw enough of in The Princess Diaries. Unimpressed!
Imagine my surprise when the rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” that came out of her mouth was strong! And her belt was mixed! Was all the oatmeal paste and media coverage worth the ten scraggly minutes of her looking like a bug-eyed alien? Meh. It was passable. But not disappointing, so I give it a C.
The real star of the show was Little Cosette. I don’t care who gave her the direction; during “Castle on a Cloud,” when she whispered, “I love you very much,” I came dangerously close to soiling myself. She balanced out Helena Bonam Carter and Sacsha Baron Cohen, who both have three names and not much singing ability. While their groping and chopping at cats made me giggle and gag here and there, during the musical the Thernandiller characters usually have me in stitches. Let’s put it this way: I came nowhere close to peeing myself during their song. Womp womp.
Now, in the stage version, Jean Valjean fetches Cosette from the gross inn, they leave, and time fast forwards to nine years later when Cosette has grown boobs and Valjean has changed his identity again while not changing his facial hair. In the movie, there was an unusual addition: a diddy sung by Valjean in the carriage as he and Cosette try to leave France. I hated the song. It didn’t fit and whoever wrote it was probably the same one responsible for Beauty and the Beast 2 (don’t get me started).
HOWEVER, there was a point to this song, even if it did make me wish I had peed myself so I didn’t have to sit through it. After dithering on about the strange mysteries of life and baguettes in the carriage, Jean Valjean runs away from Javert, jumps over a wall, and lands in the garden of a convent. If Valjean had ended up being picked on by a bunch of nuns, it would have been a different show (and the hills would be very much alive). Instead, he runs into the only man allowed on the premises: the gardener, who just happens to be the man that Valjean saved by using his Super-Convict powers to lift a cart off of him! VIP pass to the convent! (Are you confused? I apologize; check out the Wiki page.)
But I was OVERFLOWING with joy. It was SPURTING out of me. I LITERALLY COULD NOT HOLD IT IN. (My bladder was under control, though.) This small connection was omitted from the stage versions, but is absolutely one of the best “aha!” moments in the novel by Victor Hugo. Oh, the nerd bliss.
Okay, so fast forward. Cosette has grown boobs and is suddenly Amanda Seyfried without mascara. Hugh Jackman is still sexy, and Russell Crowe cannot hold a note, but continues to wear ridiculous hats. Are you with me? Good.
The movie did a great job of explaining the historical significance of why most of the second act of the musical revolvers around guns (get it? Oh God, I hate myself sometimes). We get introduced to Marius (the adorable, freckled Eddie Redmayne Whatsit) and his BFF, Enjolras, who by golly! Is played by the original Gabe from Next to Normal! Both of them could sing, but I was praying that the cameraman would take two big steps back so I would be spared from seeing Eddie’s shaking jaw.
The trouble-maker child, Gavroche was also introduced adorably, but I’m not ready to talk about him yet.
There is a love triangle because Marius loves Cosette, Eponine loves Marius, and Cosette is a dingbat. The minute Amanda Seyfried opened her mouth, I knew it was time. To use the bathroom.
Thank France, I peed long enough to miss the entirety of “A Heart Full of Love.” If I wanted to hear a sound that high pitched and creepy, I would just continuously open and shut the rusty gate in my front yard.
On the other franc, Samantha Barks as Eponine was great. She has a beautiful voice and looked good in rain. Speaking of rain, during “On My Own,” the theater roof started leaking, loudly. I’m not kidding. I checked my ticket to see if I accidentally paid for 4-D. I had not.
Once the movie bounded into the second act, I was on edge. If memory served, at least one character was going to die before the end, and it wasn’t Anne Hathaway because she died at least an hour ago. As Marius shoved past his rich grandpa and stood on top of a revolutionary’s coffin waving a giant red flag (more cute details from the book), I remembered that one key plot thing that always sneaks up on me: they all die.
I enjoyed getting to see the barricade being built, but then I closed my eyes for most of the next twenty minutes. On a scale of “Nickelodeon Slime” to Saw, I am squeamish a 10, so I usually go into horror movie mode if someone even pulls out a gun. I came out of fetal position to watch Hugh sing “Bring Him Home,” and wowza. The guy belted the whole thing! Unfortunately, it felt like he was singing it right into my eye sockets because the camera was practically in his mouth the entire time.
After all the shooting was over, I thought it would be safe to open my eyes like a normal adult in a PG-13 movie, but then Hugh Jackman slid down a passageway into what I can only describe as a vat of excrement. I knew that Valjean would have to carry Marius through Parisian sewers, but I didn’t expect them to be so … full. That poop was definitely not in the version I saw at The Kennedy Center.
I closed my eyes again during “Javert’s Suicide,” but this time it was because Russell Crowe was so boring. His performance reminded me of an awkward boy in a middle school musical who is afraid to forget the words or project his voice, but will continue to perform well into his young adulthood because no one ever tells him that his hands are awkward or that he only gets cast because of his Y chromosome. Too harsh? Well, my less-than kind thoughts were rewarded by the gruesome crunch of Javert’s body hitting a wall. Gross. I could have done without that … whole scene. F.
Eddie’s tearful, freckly, frustrated cries of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” got me back on the Emotion Train. That song was one of the few times I felt that the up-les-nostrils shot was effective. The moment was immediately ruined by Amanda Seyfried’s weird impersonation of a strangled soprano cat.
Luckily, Hugh carried the ending. Somehow that beautiful man looked unhealthy and old, swaggering gloriously through that last haunting chorus of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” into the arms of Colm Wilkinson, who is obviously God guarding the gates of Heaven, which is apparently just another French barricade where everyone still has bad teeth.
In case you were wondering, the little boy (with the girl’s haircut) made it into Heaven. I don’t really want to talk about what happened in between. I’m still dehydrated from witnessing it.
All in all? The Les Mis movie was exhausting in a good way. I clearly had some issues with it that I over-dramatized for the sake of catharsis, but to be honest, I cannot wait to own it on DVD. So many sing-alongs, so many days of it just sitting in my computer on repeat while I try to clean my room, so many hours of staring at Hugh Jackman in that silly button vest. So silly.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Bring tissues, and pee at least TWICE before it starts.
And then, remember to check out my parody. It’s been getting great reviews from my Mom.