Many years ago I went on a class trip to see Les Miserables on Broadway, and it was a great experience. The excellent songs, the caliber of acting, the bawdy comedy and heartfelt tragedy, the grand theatricality of it all. I have rarely ventured to see Broadway shows since, but it was the highest example of what the medium can acheive.
Today I took my mother to see LES MISERABLES the film. The Oscar contender, the critical darling, the Hollywood spectacle. She enjoyed it very much, having never seen the musical or heard its fantastic score, and I am very glad for that. But was I as moved?
I cannot say I wasn’t, in some spots and by certain scenes, greatly impressed and inspired to creative fancies during the screening. Any film that can fuel my own muse is certainly one to be recommended. Yet the stop-start, on again off again nature of this production hampered my consistent enjoyment. Slathered as it was in blood, grime and sweat, in an effort to bring a gritty reality of sorts to this theatrical super-production, somehow made it feel even more artificial.
The actors were overall fine, though as singers some were under the assumption that a ragged half-spoken presentation would convey the turmoil of the moment better than a straightforward clean craftsmanship. The women fared better than the men in that regard, notably Samantha Barks as Eponine, who in her moments was very touching. The comedic elements, most certainly the Innkeeper and his wife, who in the musical were hilariously low humans, felt shortchanged and undercut here. No offense to Sacha Baron Cohen or Helena Bonham Carter, it was more in the presentation, which was more successful in the dramatic and romantic aspects.
I will ponder this film for a bit, mining my memories of it for my own creative purposes. But I won’t say that I was captivated by it. That would be lying.