Tuesday 15 January 2013


My favourite musical - and it's been a very long time since I felt such anticipation to see a film as I did for this. Already several of the bloggers I follow have written their own reviews and much has been said in the media so I won't re-tread familiar ground.
On my way to the cinema I was musing on the hope that, just perhaps, I might be scoring this film with a rare, exalted  '8' - or even an unheard of '8.5'.

I'll attempt a different approach in reviewing it by listing in order what I consider its positives and negatives:-

The + s

The cast - I thought all the men were good or very good (bar one) - and with Hugh Jackman being quite perfect. Even Russell Crowe I didn't think was anywhere near as poor as some have said. By now we all know that he doesn't have a singing voice and the strain in it was conspicuous for almost all the time, although his final song was very well performed.

All the actresses (bar one) were excellent. Much has rightly been said about Anne Hathaway, but I thought Samantha Barks as Eponine was outstanding.

The contributions from the choruses were uniformly impressive.

The new, specially composed song, 'Suddenly', even on this, my first hearing, struck me as pretty good. It slotted in seamlessly.

The sets were spectacular (but I was surprised that the film wasn't in wide-screen format).

Direction, pretty good.

The Disappointments

Helena Bonham Carter (doing her slutty act yet again) who might as well have been singing in Czech as far as I was concerned. She seems to think that using a mike dispels any necessity to project. Her mixture of cod- cockney with a twist of caricature French lost most of her words to me, something I didn't find with the rest of the cast. Sacha Baron Cohen was better, but not by very much. I think both these were miscast - (both too young perhaps? - though one hardly demands authenticity, and in a musical of all things!) Sacha B.C. has shown that he can be very good, as he was in 'Sweeney Todd' , which was another film in which Helena B.C. once again mumbled and whispered her way through, paying scant attention to Sondheim's gloriously inventive lyrics. (Sacrilege!)

The whole 'Master of the House' sequence seemed a bit of a mess (too much cross-cutting?), providing nowhere near the uplift that it should as an 'oasis' amidst the ultra-seriousness of the rest of the show.

What the film gained in being opened up for the screen it seemed to lose in the taut excitement I experience in the theatre. In the latter it moved along with a keen, self-generated momentum whereas in this film it almost seems to have acquired excessive 'fat'. Not only did I look at my watch several times, I actually found myself yawning - at two separate moments!
There were a few points of high emotion where I thought the tear ducts might kick in, but the emotional intensity was not sustained for as long as it had been when watching the show live. I'd experienced more prolonged 'highs' when watching on film 'Mamma Mia' for the first time, as well as 'Chicago'. (It might be significant to mention that I've never seen these last two on the stage - though when watching these films I was aware of the songs that had been edited out.)


So, on the whole, a bit of a disappointment. Whereas I long to get the chance to see 'Les Mis' on stage for a fourth time, I don't think I'll be paying to see it in the cinema again, though when it comes on the telly I will be watching it then.

In no way a bad film then, but falling significantly below what I'd been hoping for. I give it a .................6.5/10


  1. Oh dear I suspect I would feel the same ...I do hope not...just written a blog entry about les. Mis btw

    1. Thanks, J.G. I've now just been there and left a few words.

  2. Replies
    1. Pretty good, actually. (See the start of my '+s' para above.)

    2. Yes, in this he looks at his hunky best. I can't see his fans being in any way disappointed.

  3. Glad you found some positives - not surprised they were almost the opposites of mine!

    I just couldn't see (hear?) past Crowe's singing to be able to enjoy many of the scenes he was in! Still, with umpteen award nominations and three Golden Globes now, I admit to being in the minority!

    1. I'm not sure that apart from one or two matters we really are as far apart as you imply, Andrew. Although I wasn't as 'anti' as you feel against Crowe, there's no doubt that the role of Javert could have been better cast.
      I also am pretty sure that I'd have enjoyed this film a lot more if I hadn't known the stage version so well. I wish I'd liked it more, I really do.
      I think we're both in a minority in various ways. The hosannas this film is receiving seem to be out of all proportion. You'll have read Philip French's Observer review, where he was barely able to contain his admiration - and he's not one easily given to unjustified praise. And then Mark Kermode thinks it's just about the greatest musical on screen EVER. But you and I know that they're both wrong, don't we? ;.)

  4. I am well aware of the difficulty in bringing a stage show to the big screen - very seldom works. Still, I went into this one with high hopes, even though my first experience with "Les Mis" was with the extraordinary performer, Colm Wilkinson. A very difficult task for any actor to match or top his performance. That said, I have to say that this version kind of, sort of works.

    I agree with your asessment, especially conderning HBC. I am inclined to award a '6.5' rating as you did. However, I experienced two wonderful surprises: 1. The casting of Colm Wilkinson as The Bishop and 2. Aaron Tveit as Enjolras. I'm adding two more points and giving it "an unheard of 8.5."

  5. Paul, I've no doubt at all that I would have enjoyed this a lot more had I not been so familiar with the stage version. As you imply, stage and screen are two very different 'animals', each catering to audiences which don't always have much in common. I think I've said somewhere before that the only filmed musical I've ever seen which I preferred to the stage version I've seen was 'The King and I', even though the revival at the London Palladium was with Yul Brynner (and Virginia McKenna - who wasn't on good form when I saw it) and the film's Anna was, as you'll know, mostly dubbed by Marni Nixon.
    But putting a theatrical experience onto the screen is always a tough act - and I still maintain that this 'Les Mis' OUGHT to have been better, and could have been with a few changes. However I see that I'm in an even smaller minority than I thought yesterday. The plaudits just keep coming, to which I can now add your own. I really wish I'd seen it differently.

    I hadn't realised it was Colm Wilkinson in that very brief appearance - and Aaron Tveit isn't a name I'm familiar with. Looking him up I see I've probably only ever seen him in the Ricky Gervais film 'Ghost Town' (I've never seen any of those TV progs) but his inclusion in that must have been too short for me to have noticed him.

    I'm pleased you give this film that sky-high (in my terms) score, and it's making me think that I really should attempt to see it again on the big screen - though if I do go it'd better be on a bigger-proportioned-in-relation-to-auditorium-size screen. Yesterday I did so want to be blown away but it hardly approached it - and though next time I know what'll happen in visual terms I may still get a more intense experience.

    Thanks for your opinion - much valued as always.

  6. at last - I saw this movie!
    I was drooling over Mr. Crowe that it took me awhile to realize the singing wasn't so good. I like singing, not 'speak singing' that actors do. It give more emotions but hey this is a MUSICAL - sing !

  7. I knew you'd seen it, Dr Spo, but never realised you were such a Russell C. fan. Although I'm with you in seeing an attractive bear-like hunkiness in him, what means even more for me is that he's also a close pal of the divine Hugh J. - and anyone who's that gets my thumbs-up!

    Although in this film most of the singing apart from Mr Crowe (and Helena B C) was very good indeed I didn't find the overall effect quite as intoxicating as I'd hoped, a feeling which I do still get in listening to the recordings I have. Pity that, though it's evident that most people's experiences came up to, or even exceeded, their expectations.