Monday, January 7, 2013

Some scattered thoughts on Les Mis (the movie)

I was a true Les Mis freak as a teenager. I was so obsessed with it it probably annoyed my family at times. I've come to terms with the idea that I needn't be so obsessed with any one thing now. But I've seen the stage version five times and underlined my favorite passages in the novel a few hundred more. Not for a while though. Until now, when we finally have the movie musical.

Well, I loved it. I loved Les Mis to death as much as I ever have (and that's a huge freakin' lot). In fact I fell in love with it all over again. And I almost made it to the end but then . . . bam, thank God for my mom's foresight in packing the Kleenex.

It had a couple of nice nods to fans of the stage version and the novel. Colm Wilkinson created the role of Jean Valjean on the West End and Broadway and in the movie he plays the Bishop - cool meta-reflection on the theme of paying good deeds forward. The character of Marius's grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand, is entirely missing from the stage version (but he did have a duet with Marius in the original French arena version). The novel goes quite a bit into the political conflict between the royalist grandfather and the student rebel. He's still a complete cipher in the movie and anyone who's not read the novel will understandably not really pick up on him, but it was just cool to me that he was there at all. And I don't think anyone's going to argue that the film needed to be any longer. Really, I don't think any other three-hour adaptation in history has ever left out as much from the book, about which I read a critic once claim contains nearly everything a novel can hold. Which it really does. It's a glorious, flawed everything-and-the-kitchen-sink attic treasure trove of a novel.
Anyway, you can probably sense I could go to much greater lengths than this. I'll stop now. Except to say I don't think Russell Crowe was nearly as terrible as everyone's saying he is (and I wasn't pleased when I first heard about that casting). Also, after seeing it on stage five times it's weird that in the movie Jean Valjean doesn't have a beard the whole time. Not that a beardless singing Hugh Jackman is anything I would ever dream of complaining about.

Oh, also, I liked that the film medium allowed the sewers to be so realistically gross. That would have been terribly unkind to a stage crew.

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