Every year when the Oscar nominations are revealed, I make a concerted effort to see all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the awards show. A few years back when there were only five movies in the category, this was simple. Now that there can be up to ten, I partake in a sort of Movie Madness during January and February. This year there are nine nominees and the Oscars are awarded on February 24th, so my AMC Stubs card will be getting a workout! I’ll do my best to watch what I can and let you know how it goes.
Friday night a friend and I went to see Les Mis. My one word review: Excellent.
I have to admit that I’m biased. I’ve seen Les Mis on Broadway. Three times. So me advising whether you should spend your hard-earned eleven bucks on this ticket is like Sarah Palin advising that you’ll have a great time at the Republican convention– I already believe in the cause and I’m completely on board with the concept. With that disclaimer, here’s what I thought.
Hugh Jackman (sing along fellow fans: “Who is he-eeeee? He’s Jean Val-jean!”) absolutely amazed me. I never thought of him as a super actor-y actor, but he handled the role so convincingly that I forgot all about Wolverine and Leopold. Now, he’ll always be Jean Valjean to me. (Note: I am editing this Sunday night, and he’s on my TV accepting his Golden Globe. Yay!).
Sitting in the theater, watching Anne Hathaway sing “I Dreamed a Dream,” I honestly couldn’t wait for Fantine to die. I mean this as a compliment.
Grant me a moment to explain. I’m a crier. Pour on the sap, and the floodgates open. Walking out of Titanic all those years ago I was so red and puffy that it looked like I had fought a fight instead of watched a film. Fellow movie-goers gawked as if debating whether I needed an ambulance or a straightjacket. Damn them for killing Jack! (Does anyone else think he could have fit on that raft with Rose and not freeze to death?) And I’ve developed some sort of Pavlovian response to the mushy Celine Dion song, too, where my eyes water and I start to hyperventilate. But I digress . . .
Back to the movie at issue. In Les Mis, we get three emotional deaths. THREE, Blogtropolis! (Four if you count the bad guy, five if you also count the kid). It’s too much for a person like me to bear, and I knew this going in, having seen the play.
Tom Hooper, the director of the film, was unforgiving to saps like me. While Fantine (and the others, but particularly Fantine) sang her song, the camera stayed close up and on her face the whole time. The effect was personal and intimate, and a bit disconcerting–like you were intruding and needed to look away. Anne seemed to have completely immersed herself into the role of Fantine, doing a fantastic job singing and acting the difficult role. (P.S. She also picked up an award Sunday night). Being a sap, about halfway through her song, I was forced to count ceiling tiles and recite the alphabet in my head to divert my attention, all while silently begging Fantine to please die so I could retain emotional control. I failed Les Miserably.
Then I cried when poor, rejected, brave Eponine (played beautifully by Samantha Barks) died in the rain. While I managed to hold it together through Jean Valjean’s mysterious illness, once that blasted Fantine appeared to come take him into death the waterfalls started again.
Another digression . . . when I returned home puffy and red, my husband was still awake watching a noisy boy movie. He called me in to ask me the name of the actress in the movie. Guess who it was? FAN-effin’-TINE!!! Dressed as Cat Woman. He was watching The Dark Knight Rises. Really Universe? Are you trying to kill me? I told my husband that Cat Woman was Anne, then sputtered, “Sh-sh-she just died in Les Mis . . . .”
I know you people are busy and I could go on forever, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this: Marius (Eddie Redmayne) is dreamy, although I’m not sure if it’s Marius I love, or Eddie. Or both. The jury’s still out. Also, I wanted to throw Javert (Russell Crowe) a Dayquil. He sounded stuffy. But he’s Russell so I decided to give him a pass on this one. Takes guts to do a musical, in my opinion, so I applaud his efforts.
Despite all the crying, as a Les Mis fan, the movie was way better than I expected. Although nothing quite beats the feeling of being in a Broadway theater, with a person singing in the same room as you, breathing the same air, performing live, the movie version of Les Mis inspired the same emotional response in me as the play. The story hits all the right buttons– love, jealousy, redemption, war, innocence, rebellion, death, life. The music is lovely, and has been playing on a constant loop in my head since Friday night. With the story and music as the starting point, all Hollywood needed to do was compile a great cast and create the world of France during the early nineteenth century, which it did perfectly.
I loved it.