RMR: Les Miserables

Les Mis

Before you see this movie you should know something that I didn’t know going into it: This movie is 99% singing. The total number of spoken lines is probably less than a baker’s dozen, and as soon as they say one thing they break into song. I knew it was a musical, but not a music-all.

The singing was phenomenal. Everybody in the movie including the kids are fabulous singers. I wasn’t expecting it from Hugh Jackman, but home boy has some pipes.  I actually have a studio album by Russell Crowe on my computer that I got from the Jeff City Public Library. The album is no good, but he can still sing decently. Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, heck even Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) killed. The singing, the visuals, and the costumes were all very good. The story is obviously a classic, and the overall theme is redeeming as well. I’ll let you figure out what that is. (Hint: Miserable-s)

I just can’t get into musicals where it is ALL SINGING. I don’t know if I can say it was good acting, because it’s all singing. The fact that there’s no dialogue in the film at all can be seen as an accomplishment, but I see it as sort of a cop out.

Most of the singing was in awkward situations when:

1. There was back and forth dialogue. People can’t be fighting and arguing while singing. It just doesn’t happen. Try to sing out loud “I’m going to kill you” and have it be convincing at all. Can’t work. In these intense scenes I can’t adequately judge the acting because it can seem comical. You can’t be whispering in a grave yard one moment and the next burst out into song. I guess it was well done because this didn’t completely take me out of the movie, but was still extremely distracting.

2. The characters were talking to himself/herself. If it looks stupid for a guy to be talking to himself in a scene, it looks ten times stupider for a guy to be singing to himself. This is where I saw it as a cop out. Instead of further developing the story, after every major scene, there would be a scene with an actor by himself/herself singing to himself/herself. This singing would usually consist of “Here’s where the story is. Here’s why I’m sad. Here’s what I need to do.” We get it. You don’t need to establish where the movie is every fifteen minutes. Continue the story instead of insulting our ability as movie watchers to understand what’s going on.

There were a few really great musical scenes where you know a song is coming and it fit and was great. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s scenes were much needed comic relief and were a lot of fun. They were too few and far between though. The writers also felt like they had to rhyme every single line sung. Great writing to be able to do that, but it was forced at times. I found myself trying to guess what word is coming up that rhymes with the last one instead of actually listening. Music doesn’t have to rhyme to be good music.

I also wish there was a redeeming song. After watching “White Christmas” I am always singing “White Christmas.” After watching “Lion King” I’m left humming “Circle of Life.” After I see “South Park,” I am can’t stop singing “Blame Canada.” After I watch… oh you get the point. I didn’t get that from Les Miserables. Mostly singing dialogue instead of good quality songs.

Overall I’d give this movie a B- still. I guess I’m just not one that can fully appreciate this type of movie. It certainly was a huge accomplishment and deserves a lot of credit. There were people crying after the movie, and one of my sister’s friends posted on Facebook that it’s her favorite movie ever. I think everyone should give it a try. Everyone I went with loved it. It will get some nods at the Oscars. There’s redeeming historical factors that I’m probably going to read up on, but all the singing was distracting. Not going to see it again. Glad I saw it, but wish I saw Django instead.

Miserable or not, that’s what I think I think.


One thought on “RMR: Les Miserables

  1. Contrary to popular opinion, I agree with you. I thought this movie was OK – well done but just OK. It dragged in parts and there was no development of the characters or added depth to the story, which, like you pointed out, can be a big challenge for musicals. However, I’ve seen it done successfully multiple times so Les Mis has no excuse.

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