Review: ‘Les Miserables’

Tuesday, Feb. 5-

As majestic as it is monotonous, the movie-musical “Les Misérables” is a powerful rendition of a 19th century literary masterpiece that is more bitter than sweet.

Though some swear by the long-lived adage to never judge a book by its cover, last year’s most anticipated musical-to-film adaptation gave holiday moviegoers a pretty frank description of plot with the title alone: “Les Misérables”. None of the doom and gloom from the original title of the musical is lost in translation and yet it hardly scared away its chipper-after Christmas audiences and the buzz that immediately followed it.

“Les Mis” enlisted audiences from all backgrounds. From the star-chasers who were drawn by names such as Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried, to the loyal following of fans from the both the musical and novel adaptations, and the casual wanderers who didn’t find interest in the other big titles that debuted at the same time, audiences were snatched away from the cozy glow of post-holiday bliss and dragged into a dismal, sickeningly dewy 19thcentury France. Though opinions of the film vary, it’s simple to say that by the end of the film, everyone in the audience had too become miserable.

The story follows a successful and generous ex-convict named Jean Valjean, who struggles to avoid being recaptured by a police inspector, Javert, who is adamantly searching for him. It’s a game of cat and mouse that spans over 17 years, in which the audience experiences the political and social turmoil that was rotting away at the foundation of France’s government.
It’s an intense journey of emotions: bitter throughout and infuriating at some points, yet, the plot moves the audience along with gentle hand of romance, comedy, and raw humanity.

The cast is marvelous. In particular, Hathaway’s role is bittersweet and far too short. Her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” is the show stopping number and probably the most iconic moment of the film. As she coughs, sniffles, and sobs, she belts out the woebegone melody from whisper to climax. As well, Samantha Barks, who plays the awkward but soulful teenager Éponine, wowed audiences with her film debut performance and her enchanting rendition of, “On My Own”.

Though the film itself was majestic and moving at moments, it was long. Excruciatingly long. The time only passes slower when every word (literally, there is no dialogue) is drawled along through leaden, monotonous musical numbers that seemingly have no end. Russell Crowe’s solos are particularly painful—not because the acting is subpar, but rather, his brutally scratchy vocals leave audiences cringing. The plot is too rich, packing in fifty musical numbers in nearly 3 hours of film time—at the two hour point, the audience was squirming, wondering when on earth the story would finally close. When the theater gave the film a standing ovation,  half the people were deeply moved and the others were celebrating that it was finally over.

“Les Misérables”, although it was a thorough, well-thought out film adaptation of the popular novel and musical, was much too long and artistically driven for a general audience. If you’re feeling moody or have the need for some cinematic brain food, “Les Mis” is the perfect film. However, the cruel nature of 19th century France is a buzz-kill for any casual moviegoer who’s looking for a few hours of carefree movie viewing.

 

-Danielle Burrage

Staff Writer

The Prowl