It’s one of my favorite books, but I decided I was over musicals a while back, and then the previews came out, and then Anne Hathaway who is my motherfucking homegirl, and I haven’t seen it on stage since high school, so hey, why not?

Spoilers within.


  1. I loved it. I am not a connoisseur of film and stage so I have low(?) threshold of enjoyment. I saw the original production in London in the 80’s with a dear friend who was dying of AIDS…we went to London (his bucket list) and he was dead a few months after we got back to NY, so I cried like a baby in the movie as it was all wound up with the story line, and the music and the memories of that time with my friend…so I was satiated for sure.
    And I thought they were all powerful performances. Is there a difference between what one would call an artistically acclaimed (as in talent and musical mastery) and just plain energetic WOW? Crowe and some of the others may not be trained accomplished musically grounded masters but the performances were very strong in my opinion, which might be because the diretor insisted they actually, you know, sing while acting (as opposed to recording in a studio and dubbing). Multiple takes to be sure, but still real time.
    Which makes the Hathaway scene you refer to that much more amazing.
    I am glad I saw it on the big screen.

  2. Disclaimer: I’m not remotely qualified to review musical performances. But I love music, whether it’s Gershwin, Springsteen, or Kristofferson. I wasn’t aware of Hugh Jackman’s stage background. I was half afraid that he or another actor would turn in a performance akin to Pierce Brosnan’s heroic performance in Mama Mia. That was not to be. To my untrained ear, Jackman and the others did a fine job. (Especially since the music was not dubbed in.) When I see such fine actors wholeheartedly devote the last full measure of themselves to their craft, all I can say is “thank you”. Lincoln gets my vote for best picture, though.

  3. I thought Hugh Jackman was brilliant, actually. Valjean’s hard to pull off, and the claustrophobic closeups made it harder, but he has a hell of a voice.

  4. I disagree with you on Jackman’s voice in this performance. He is a good belter, but Hooper’s direction asking for the actors to sing more softly and conversationally served Hugh poorly.
    But OMG Hathaway!!! Anne gave such an awesome performance in general, and particularly with her character’s big song, that it threw the balance of the film off for me; it was just so superior to everything for quite a while, particularly in the minutes immediately afterwards.
    Oddly, even though I’m down with revolution, I didn’t like the second act quite as much as I did the first. The abandonment and defeat of the revolutionaries was touching, their eventual triumph in the next world more so.
    Oh yes, Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter- very well cast, and they gave good performances. Even more props to Redmayne and Barks.

  5. Yeah, Anne Hathaway, wow, and I was totally moved by Jackman’s final scene. I actually liked it that they weren’t trained singers; made it more realistic for me (“realistic” I realize is a relative term in a setting where everyone sings everything).

  6. I loved it and sobbed like a baby (of course, I cry to Judy Garland too). Mrs. Aaaargh hated it with the white hot passion of a thousand suns.
    I have to agree with her that I hated, hated, hated the casting of Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter—just way too obvious and their business was so egregiously over the top it wasn’t even modestly amusing. Having someone from the stage productions do it would have been much preferable to them. Baron Cohen’s singing is egregiously bad, and it takes a pretty good bass-baritone to pull off Master of the House with sufficient verve with underlying venom. He doesn’t even come close. The producers did a fine job in bringing in the stage Eponine, and they should have done that with more roles, I’m afraid.
    I frankly thought Crowe did a better job of singing than Jackman, who I find hugely overrated. I agree that Valjean is tough to pull off for any actor, let along a singing one.
    What I do love is the unashamedly liberal politics and the refusal to accept being crushed under the iron heel; the barricades reminded me of the Wisconsin Capitol protests. You knew that they could never win, but they were heard. The heavy dose of christianity was annoying but regrettably true to the book, at least with regard to the beginning.
    More than anything, it was good to see a film where the characters are faced with brutally difficult moral choices—especially Valjean’s fretting about whether to let an innocent man be doomed or let the people of his factory fall into destitution. I did think Jackman did well there.
    The book is second in my mind only to Crime and Punishment as the greatest thing ever penned. Yes, I sob at Fantine’s death in the book too.

  7. My 24-yr-old French grad student daughter cried throughout the whole movie, and then off and on for about another hour. Les Mis, which she’s seen 4 times on stage, along with the Harry Potter series (books and movies), are the real cultural landmarks of her childhood/adolescence, but even she was surprised by how completely overwhelmed she was. My Iraqi daughter-in-law had seen the Liam Neeson movie but was swept up in the movie spectacle and asked to download the music (the NY original cast is the best and recommended for those who want to know how the songs sound when sung by professional singers). After the second or third HUGE closeup of a singer — which completely divorced the character from the scene/other characters — I slunk low in my seat when the next big song began, fearful of having to confront eyelashes, pores, noses … eek. Ann was amazing, Russell seemed curiously stiff, wooden (what happened to the Gladiator?) and couldn’t nearly belt out “Stars” as it should be, and Hugh is no Colm Wilkinson (who did show up as the Bishop) but his acting was fine … none of us could figure out where that bloody elephant came from (definitely not in the stage version but it is in the book). Lance Mannion is posting an interesting series of Miserable Thoughts, well worth checking out …http://lancemannion.typepad.com/lance_mannion/2013/01/the-bishop-of-digne.html … and then back a few entries.

  8. As I missed the play and regretted it – but saw the 10th and 25th year celebrations on DVD – I had been extremely anxious for a movie to be made of the musical.
    Crowe did much better than I expected. But there was still the problem that they were taking a stage musical and, despite having filmed the music in such a way as to be true to the theater, there was a clear confusion in whether they were doing a stage play or film.
    That showed up in the casting. Admittedly when you’re going against 30 years of worldwide stage you’re in a hard group to live up to. But they went with the big name film folks for casting. One place where that really showed up is in Valjean’s “Bring him home”. The film was good and natural. But in the 10th Anniversary concert, one felt as if they were evesdropping on a very intimate conversation with God.
    There were places where they had clearly clipped out parts of the music.

  9. What I would like to emphasize from the movie is the disconnect between the praising of Les Miz and the inability to see the similarities between the harsh Napoleanic code and today’s calling for harsher sentences / 3 strikes laws / etc. That Valjean couldn’t live up to being rehabilitated under the restrictions on the paroled. That Valjean may have been a criminal but his life was a study in redemption and forgiveness – virtues at the heart of many religions.
    (both the film today, and when the traveling troupe was in the town I was in?15? years ago).

  10. What I do love is the unashamedly liberal politics and the refusal to accept being crushed under the iron heel; the barricades reminded me of the Wisconsin Capitol protests.
    This video makes that connection explicit:

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