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FINALLY, I saw Les Misérables, the latest film installment. It only took this long because I have kids, and arranging the sitter and coaxing my husband to use our precious date night for this, well, these things take time. (Thank you for being coaxed, dear husband.)

Thoughts in random order!

Evidently, when someone says, "Who goes there?", you should not answer, "French revolution." Doesn't go over well.

Extreme close-ups during singing: a few too many of them. It was like Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" video, over and over. Mind you, it was impressive to know we were hearing the actual singing the actors were doing during those takes. And I found it reassuring that famous beautiful people have pores and little brown spots and other skin imperfections too. Thank heavens.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway both deserve their Oscar nods. Russell Crowe wasn't as bad as I expected; in fact, he made Javert more endearing than I usually find him. (The bit with the medal he pins on someone else who shall remain spoiler-free-nameless was a very moving addition, though that gesture isn't in the book.)

I love Gavroche, and Daniel Huttlestone did a great job, but must they always have him do an Artful Dodger accent? We are in *France* here, you know. Not London.

You know what I'm going to say I disliked, if you've read my Les Mis thoughts before. Yeah, that's right: the way they condense down the gorgeous, lengthy, super-romantic Cosette-and-Marius relationship from the book into, literally, one day. No one is going to buy it, their being "in love" when they just met a second ago. Why the hell couldn't the filmmakers give them a montage, Marius sneaking in night after night to sit and talk with Cosette in the garden, the way the book has it? In the book, it's Cosette--not Eponine--he's buddies with, Cosette (not Eponine) he sees regularly and talks for hours with and knows really well after a month or so of such meetings. In the book, he talks to Eponine a couple of times. She's obviously into him, and he's awkward about it, and he uses her to get Cosette's address because she's willing, but that's about it. But in the musical, oh no, it isn't enough that they give Eponine the most gorgeous songs; they also have to rob Cosette and Marius of any real, actual interaction that any sane person would feel sympathy for. ARGH. Don't get me started. Whoops, too late.

Give me a second while I calm down from that rant. Seethe. Deep breath. Okay.

Eddie Redmayne at least did save the part of Marius from what all too often becomes blandness and idiocy in many versions. He had the dorky, stammering, happy-in-love thing down, but also showed his noble revolutionary side well.

Favorite surprise-cutie revolutionary: Grantaire, played by George Blagden. Hel-lo! Also, much love for the book-faithful moment in which he opts to die next to Enjolras. (Spoiler there. Sorry. Whatever; no one reads LiveJournal.)

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was, of course, beautiful. Highly well cast. And I'm so glad they did away with his Adam-Ant gold-barred jacket from the stage version in favor of a basic red one.

Impressive barricade, guys! Coffin in front, looked like. Really sends the message, "Pretty much everyone here is going to die." Oh, but I loved how one of the Friends of the ABC got the tavern mistress's chair by hauling her off it in a big long kiss. There weren't enough smooches in this film, really.

The Thenardiers were almost too lovable. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, despite looking ridiculous, pulled off the parts with surprising subtlety and humor, to the degree that I was glad to see them whenever they showed up. That's not the case in the book; the Thenardiers *are* a bit humorous, but the general reaction of most readers is, "OMFG, I hate these people." But that's okay. The movie benefited from the comic relief.

Elephant statue! Another book-faithful detail. Hurrah.

I managed not to cry in the cinema. I'm good at being stoic in public that way. But if I had this at home on DVD, there would have been waterworks.

"Bring Him Home," from the viewpoint of the book reader, doesn't make a lot of sense. Valjean kind of hates Marius at that point, but he is risking his life to save Marius anyway because it would make Cosette happy. This whole "he's like the son I might have known" stuff doesn't really wash for me, this early on in their acquaintance.

That said, 2 hours and 37 minutes is really not enough to do justice to a story of this depth and breadth. The music is wonderful, and the costumes and scenery were breathtaking, and I'm so glad this movie version exists. But someone needs to do a perfect, lengthy miniseries someday. With all the RIGHT Cosette-Marius-Eponine dynamics, dammit. Shoujo Cosette is doing a fairly good job so far actually, but it's, you know, anime. For innocent kids. With way more giggles and fluffy puppies than Victor Hugo intended.

And may I remind you that I summed up The Brick (that is, the unabridged novel version of Les Mis) with my own attempt at condensing things, so you can see what the musical changed, if you wish.

VIVE LA FRANCE. Au revoir.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
I share your objection to the brevity of the Marius-Cosette courtship. (Courtyardship?) Even though I'll allow a certain tradition of accelerating human relationships in musical theater, especially with the implication of the passage of time, falling in love after a few stares and one conversation is too much. They at best should have had a heart full of like.

I disliked the casting of Sasha Baron Cohen; though he brought some welcome humor to the role, he lacked the pomp and grandiosity I remember from Broadway. Sometimes archetypes don't need to be reinvented. His Master of the House was far too understated for my tastes. I was pleasantly surprised by Helena Bonham Carter, given her lackluster singing in Sweeney Todd.

And yeah, why is it that British accents have taken on the semiotic role of "foreign accents from anywhere"?
Jan. 13th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)
"A heart full of like"--hah! Yeah, exactly. Even a heart full of what-was-your-name-again. Irritating, since it would not have been that hard to fix.

British accents are also seemingly called upon for stories set "a long time ago." Even if it isn't England. One of my problems with Sacha Baron Cohen was that he put a slight French accent in his words, which either everyone should have done or (preferably) no one should have. Then again, when people received letters, they were written in French, so...some language confusion, as ever.

Helena Bonham Carter made Madame Thenardier a little bit sexy, which definitely was not what any book reader ever expected to see in the role (she's supposed to be scary and unattractive), but it actually kind of worked, so I'll give it a pass.
Jan. 14th, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
Enjoyed your review! Just saw this today (it only came out here on Thursday). Agree with you on Marius/Cosette - makes them both seem drippy and silly. Favourite ridiculous condensing-of-time is Fantine, though - the way it's shot it seems like she loses her hair, her teeth, her virtue and her health in ONE DAY XD
Jan. 14th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
Hah, I was wondering about that timeline too--"Is this all happening in one evening?" They even condensed down the barricade fighting a bit, I think. Seem to recall it was a couple of days in the book, whereas in the musical they don't "last the night." Oh, and Valjean dying on Cosette and Marius' wedding night?? Jeez, buzzkill of marital bliss there. (He died months later, in the book. Cosette at least got a chance to be a happy wife for a while.)
Jan. 14th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
I've never read the book, but I'm very pleased to see that you have given my thoughts on Marius/Cosette (+Eponine) a basis in reality! Eponine frickin' annoys me, her whole (teenage) story does, and you are correct that I never buy Marius and Cosette's twu wuv. My sister called home on Saturday after seeing the movie (she did the show in high school, which was my introduction to it), and my dad and I talked to her about it, and then when I mentioned how much Eponine annoys me, she freaked. out. Now at least I can go back and tell her that poor 'Ponine didn't have that kind of role in the book, so clearly I was psychically pulling from that.

So, your rant has done some good! And it makes me more interested to actually read the book, some day, if I can ever stop reading fanfic long enough to read a real book again.

(Also, I generally avoid everything with Russell Crowe on principle, but I liked his Javert quite a lot, and I liked his "Stars" (a song I love); best singer in the world? Hell no. But I think it fits.)
Jan. 14th, 2013 06:45 pm (UTC)
Hee hee, oh, indeed, you don't want to bait the Eppieboppers. (You probably also don't want to mention that book fans call them Eppieboppers.) I can sympathize with Eponine--we've all been in the position of crushing on someone who's crushing on someone else. But that doesn't make Marius obliged to love her when he simply doesn't. In the book, Eponine is filthy and emaciated with the hoarse voice of a drunken man (or some quote like that), and it's hinted that she turns tricks to help bring back money to Dad Thenardier. Marius doesn't know her very well, but in the book he does get to know Cosette well, and it's all quite charming. But evidently that wasn't romantic enough for the musical writers. Hrmf.

Anyway, as ever, if you do pick up the book I encourage you to start with an abridged version. (There are several; pick whatever length looks acceptable.) :) I started that way, then later went back in for the unabridged when I decided I loved the whole thing well enough to face it. I figure that's a safe approach. No need to tackle Victor Hugo's dissertations on every last damn thing in French history the very first time around.

Yeah, Russell Crowe was almost cuddly in this one. I can take or leave him usually, but I found he made Javert more interesting and human than I expected.
Jan. 17th, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
What, no Hobbit?

Perhaps another date night soon...
Jan. 17th, 2013 04:20 am (UTC)
Thought about it, but movie times and babysitter times didn't line up well. Also, it's EVEN LONGER than Les Mis, which is saying something. Naturally we'll get to it eventually, though.

In family viewing news, we've finally started Netflixing Avatar: the Last Airbender, though. (Nickelodeon/anime series, of course, not the movie everyone hates.) We love it and so do the kids. Hurray for cool mythological-like stories!
Feb. 1st, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
Bonus that my sister noticed - during "Master of the House," you see the Thenardiers steal a full suitcase from a customer... and replace it with an occupied baby basket. The abandonment of Gavroche???
Feb. 2nd, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I saw that! And yes, I did wonder. :) Even if the movie never mentions how Gavroche is a Thenardier kid (at least, I don't think it does), it would be a good way to give a nod to that book detail. There were a lot of such nods--I appreciated those.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )