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Possibly, it is too much of a good thing, like the last piece of pizza, third glass of wine, fourth chocolate chip cookie but after seeing the play twice, listening and loving the sound track through the decades, I  could not muster the enthusiasm, expressed by the masses for the spectacular film version of “Les Miz”. It was too long, too dark, and I was incapable of taking the fantastical leap of accepting Russell Crowe as the tenacious, “Inspector Javert”, with his every stiffly -sung note, I had a difficult time stifling, laughter.

Director Tom Hooper spared no expense in recreating 19th century France: dingy, dark alleys; detritus, filth spewed from windows, mud-caked streets, domicile of the destitute, unwanted, hopeless. Anne Hathaway,  gifted with superior vocal powers, depicts “Fantine” who falls into this uncensored, tormented population; she sells her lustrous, dark mane of hair and eventually her body to salvage her daughter “Cosette” from a likely, predictable fate; housed by rapacious innkeepers, the “Thenardiers” (supercilious, excessively cloying performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).

Hugh Jackman is “Jean Valjean”, prisoner turned model citizen, unremittingly chased by Javert; the film flounders in portraying the intense animosity, seething rivalry, and terror author Victor Hugo, intended. Jackman, an immensely talented actor, sings, crawls and bleeds for almost three anguishing hours.

The brightest characters and strongest singers are Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne as the adult “Cosette” and lothario, idealist “Marius”; their love songs, a shard of light, temporarily shattering the deadly gloom, excessively heavy black veil, cloaking the tumultuous , frustrating, fruitless times of revolutionary France.

At the finale, the audience clapped, cried and cheered as the protagonists marched and sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” My sentiments when I first saw the play in London; no longer a neophyte, just sad that “Les Miserables”, resonated staleness, failing to ignite or enflame my imagination, probably tainted by contemporary times; jaded by reality and haunted by the prospect of history cyclically,  perpetually repeating itself.


For Now……….Peneflix

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  1. Your review sounds very true to what I have read about the film, Peneflix.
    I prefer to remember”Les Miserables” , Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece, as he wrote it, a monumental novel. A musical? Not for me!
    Thanks for reviewing it, and, happy movie going in 2013. We are all enlightened by your blog!

  2. I had also decided that this one was NOT for me; leave it alone, read the book and… let it be! Happy to know I have others in my pass it line.
    To more interesting films and thoughtful reviews.

  3. Who are these people who feel the need to take a story, perfect in its own skin, and…turn it into a musical. Can you imagine if our daily lives were musicals?
    Victor Hugo says”Lay down those weapons of sound!”

  4. I’ve yet to see the movie. After reading your review I have developed great sadness and pity for the poor souls who have neither read the book nor seen the London performance. To think they might never be capable of learning what they have missed and how ordinary, by comparison, is their only presentation of Hugo’s masterpiece.

    • This is a generation of “cliff notes”; pathetic how few of today’s audiences, never heard of Victor Hugo; we are the fortunate well-read generation! Always appreciate your insights. P.

  5. I’ve read the book and seen the play. I’m also not a musical fan. That being said I thought this movie was fabulous. Musicals and plays generally don’t transition well into films. This is one major exception. Beautifully directed, wonderfully acted, I was engrossed and moved the entire time. The only flaw to me was Russell Crowe, his interpretation of the role didn’t work for me. As for the gloominess; you know that going in. I also liked Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Their roles brought in a little levity.
    I almost never disagree with Peneflix; but in this case I do strongly. And for audiences who couldn’t see the play in London or read the “cliff notes” to the book this movie is better quality fare than much of what else is out there!

    • Agree on one major point: easier to digest if this was your first experience. Controversy is healthy and everyone’s opinion correct; there should be no eliticism in the sphere of film; good for you for expressing, examining “Les Miz”; which will always rank at the celestial, monotonous level of boredom for moi.
      Excellent comment. Thank you, P.

  6. We enjoyed the movie, probably more so because of all the negative reviews. We have seen the play in London and New York and a wonderful adaptation at the Marriott Lincolnshire. (yes 4 stars from critics) We hear the music on channel ll often. Since I love the music, I enjoyed the movie. (not as much as the play though) The real singers interspersed such as the role of Marius were the best. Hugh Jackman was fine for the role even though his voice isn’t stellar. Didn’t care for Russel Crowe’s voice but he did a pretty good job. Loved the line in the New York times review that he dozed and then when he woke up they were still singing and suffering. He isn’t a fan of the musical so that makes a difference. This is too long, but I enjoyed the movie.

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