So What Did I Think of Les Mis?

I know that, a month after its release, y’all are dying to know.

The thing was, I couldn’t really think about Les Mis while I was watching Les Mis. Because I was sobbing uncontrollably. I always had a somewhat weepy reacting to Fantine, even when I was a teenager, but the combined powers of now I have a daughter and omg Anne Hathaway was magnificent (and BOY did that filming-the-songs-live thing really work here) meant I really couldn’t stop crying. I know everyone got weepy at this movie, but y’all probably went home and said, “Yeah, I cried, sure. But you should have heard this lady three rows behind me, oh, my God.” I was that lady three rows behind you. Sorry.

And then when we left, we were going home and Zoe was sleeping at her grandparents, but I just couldn’t take it and FaceTimed with her from the car, because for serious, I couldn’t handle it. I would have insisted on picking her up, but her aunts were visiting from San Francisco and she doesn’t get to see them very often, so I didn’t. So, thank you, Apple, for allowing me to FaceTime on the fly like that, and Tara and Gabrielle, know I love you guys and want you to have a relationship with my daughter and that’s the only reason we didn’t drive back right then and take her back.

Anyway. What did I think?

Overall, I thought they did a good job translating the musical to the screen. I mean, it was pretty much exactly what I expected to see on screen. And Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Sasha Baron Cohen (who, the whole time, I was going, “That looks an awful lot like Sasha Baron Cohen. But it can’t be, right? Because he’s doing a really good job and he can sing? Can Sasha Baron Cohen do a really good job and sing?” But yes, as it turns out, he can.), Helena Bonham Carter, and Samantha Barks (who played Eponine, on stage and screen, and apparently won the part over Taylor Swift, according to IMDB, which . . . I should hope so? I mean, I’m sure that Taylor Swift REALLY IDENTIFIES with “On My Own”, because she’s a dumb teenage twit like we were all once dumb teenage twits, but come the fuck on.) were all un-fucking-believable. And Russell Crowe . . . look, I believe he really wanted to be good. I do. I don’t think he was phoning it in. He just . . . can’t sing. I mean, he can’t sing like you need Javert to be able to sing. And yeah, I was disappointed by it because Javert is my favorite character and I would have really loved to see someone who could knock it out of the park play him, someone who could really go toe-to-toe with Hugh Jackman. But I wasn’t really surprised that he couldn’t do it.

And Hugh Jackman? Oh, my God. I say this as someone who doesn’t find him particularly attractive, who is not just squeeing like a fangirl because he’s so cute or anything, but he was amazing. Just amazing. The thing about Valjean is, I always felt sympathetic towards him, of course, but I’ve never felt particularly compelled by him. I think that’s because he’s usually played by a Great Man of the Theatre type, so you get the impression that, even while he’s on the run, stealing silver from bishops and whatnot, he’s still Monsieur le Mayor, Great and Powerful Citizen, Kind and Compassionate and Morally Upright Leader, inside, even if circumstances in his life don’t allow him to live like that all the time. Also, I mean, it’s the theater, you can’t always see faces so well. Whereas with Hugh Jackman, you could really feel all of the transitions the character made, how he really was this sort of feral criminal until he felt forgiven and seen and blessed by the bishop, how much he loved but felt insecure in his role as Monsieur le Mayor, community pillar, and how he felt the loss of that role when he had to go on the run again, but couldn’t be who he was when he was 24601 anymore. Very powerful performance.

I did get annoyed at some of the changes from the show, which is not to say that adaptations must never change their source material, but just that I disagreed with these changes. The big thing for me was that Eponine in the show gets shot after having delivered, at Marius’s request, the letter to Cosette that Valjean intercepts; in the movie, they have Gavroche deliver that letter; Eponine gets shot on the barricade, fighting next to – and saving the life of? – Marius. This in combination with a bit I’m fairly sure wasn’t in the show where Marius plays chicken with the French soldiers and a keg of gunpowder was supposed to make Marius look more like a genuine hero and less like a clueless, useless dipshit. That annoyed me. I was perfectly comfortable in my general hatred of Marius and I didn’t need the movie to try to make me like him more. Also, it means something that Eponine takes a bullet running this stupid, useless little errand to help the romance of 1) the guy she herself is in love with, and 2) the most boring and irritating romantic couple in the whole history of literature. It means something in terms of her relationship with Marius and exactly how much of a dipshit he is, and it means something that she doesn’t get shot during a battle but just as a random person crawling over the barricade; it’s an illustration of how cheap the lives of the poor revolutionaries are to the French soldiers.

And in many ways, they kept women out of the activities they do in the show to support the revolution, most obviously, in giving the women’s singing parts to Gavroche in “Drink With Me.” This annoyed me as a feminist, because even though in the show the women hardly had equal roles in the revolution to the men, at least they had roles, and didn’t just get shoved to the sidelines so that men could pick up their chairs. They were doing the support stuff women do, like tending wounds, mending clothes, and serving drinks, but they were THERE. This Les Mis just got rid of them entirely. Except Eponine, of course, who dresses like a boy in order to participate. It also annoyed me because hearing (and sniffling at) “Drink With Me” was my first exposure to Les Mis and is still my favorite song.

I can’t talk more about Anne Hathaway’s performance. I know I waxed poetic about Hugh Jackman, but Anne Hathaway – she just killed me. I can’t talk about it. I’ll start sobbing again. And then I’ll need to smish Zoe and she’ll get annoyed with me and I just . . .

I can’t hear anyone say the word “bed time” without getting all teary. (“Cosette, it’s turned so cold./Cosette, it’s past your bed time.”) This movie – and Anne Hathaway in particular – has made me a mess.

Here’s the thing about Les Mis for me, as a show, a movie, whatever: I would totally hate it if it weren’t for the music. It’s depressing and melodramatic and self-righteous and the ending is just such a flipping cop-out tear-jerker blah . . . But the music. Oh, the music. I am in thrall to you. Damn it.

PS. My sister did a review, too.


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