Monday, January 7, 2013

Theatrical Review: Les Miserables (2012)

Location: Pocono Movieplex
ShowTime: 1:15pm
Duration: 157 minutes (+4 trailers)
Party: 2

The short version of this post is as follows:
"It was freaking amazing"... those exact words.

I previously remarked that "The Hobbit" was one of those movies where you had to mentally prepare for the commitment of giving nearly 3 hours of your time to watching a film.
"Les Mis" was the same thing, but with one difference:
ironically I bring up the Lord of the Rings prequel because it's a comment that had been used to describe the trilogy's finale.

The last 20 minutes was similar in that I kept expecting the ending to come at least 3-4 times until it finally did.

But at the same time, I kinda didn't want it to end. You spend a lot of time in this other world, really getting to know all of these characters and how they tick, etc, etc. You get engrossed to the point where breaking away is hard.

My mom and I were 2 of 9 people. The first two were a young couple around my age, which had me pondering if "Les Mis" was a good date movie. And part of me also wondered if it was going to be like that "Seinfeld" where Jerry and his girlfriend were making out for the duration of "Schindler's List." (As it turned out, they were cozy through most of the movie and he was probably a good shoulder to cry on if needed).
Another couple came in during one of the previews and there were three older ladies sitting at the back of the theater.

There were 4 previews:

I'd only seen a teaser of the "Oz" prequel and this is going back to maybe August when I saw "The Bourne Legacy." It was so visually stunning and intriguing (which witch is the bad witch?) that I've started to consider it as well.
"Epic," I saw the teaser trailer before the final Ice Age movie and it looked amazing then. The animation only gets more impressive.
I'd seen the movie poster on IMDB a number of times for the movie "Identity Theft" where Jason Bateman, oddly enough, has his identity stolen by Melissa McCarthy. Most likely the studios want to capitalize on her success with "Bridesmaids" and give her a starring role. With the one huge LOL moment in that trailer, I get the feeling it might do all right. 
Finally, there was "Oblivion." When I first heard of it, I was asking myself how Tom Cruise had time to do all these movies (especially when I have enough trouble with my favorite actors starring in more than ONE movie each year... 2010 had me spoiled rotten, let's just say). It's one of those post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers with all the great special effects and CGI. There's no huge rush on that one, but I'll have to remind myself to get around to watching "Minority Report" because the spacecrafts were giving me major Blade Runner/Total Recall vibes.

Now onto the actual film.

The only version I saw of "Les Mis" was in 8th grade French Class... in French... and it may have been the version with Liam Neeson as Jean ValJean. My memory is so foggy that I remembered very little about the movie except for the four main characters and the fate of at least two of them.
(This is also part of the reason why I had no idea when the cut-off point would be). 

It didn't take very long at all to say that all of the props the cast and crew received were very richly deserved. Coming off his Oscar win directing "The King's Speech," Tom Hooper did so well with this that I doubt anyone else could have managed quite as well. As with any musical being translated to the movie screen, it's amazing how grand a scale they use to bring that extra something to the material. But the grandeur of THIS, I'd never seen anything like that before. Colossal sets, doing incredible justice to a show already larger than life to a lot of people.

The actors singing everything live made it feel all the more genuine. At times, it felt like I left my body for a couple minutes because I was that absorbed. And all the voices were amazing. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, I expected to be amazing and of course, expectations were surpassed. Despite the comments in one reviews, Russell Crowe, I think, impressed me the most out of everybody. His stage presence as the complex and often conflicted Javert, about an hour into the film, I just had to sat back and say "WOW."

It comes with not knowing the play all that well, but a few questions sprang to mind that had me wanting to pause and find answers to.
It started when Fantine was thrown out of the factory. It was a mix between the reasoning behind it and also why she was victimized by the other women and singled out. Was it because she was the prettiest one there (wearing pink where everyone else wore drab colors)? Was it because she was the only one who wasn't a virgin? Was it because she had a daughter and rejected the foreman's advances? Some of it got lost in translation, obviously, but that bothered me. (Strangely, even more so than what came next for her).

There were examples everywhere about how things were at that time, like all of the things she did to get extra change in her pocket (how locks of hair and teeth were even worth a couple francs). A major example were the duo of Helen Bonham Carter & Sasha Baron Cohen, inn-keepers, but also pickpockets at every opportune moment. For sure, they were scene stealers and in the otherwise emotional and somber musical, Sasha Baron Cohen produced the only laughs (and always welcome, they were).

With all of the character development that happens throughout the story, it boggles my mind why this isn't one of those books we were assigned in school. We could have easily done an essay on whether Jean ValJean or Javert went through the most changes from the beginning of the story to the end. Personally, it's a hard decision at the moment.

Act I came and went. Jean Val Jean assumed another identity and the role of fatherhood to Fantine's daughter, Cosette. 

Act II opens with the backdrop what seemed to be a 2nd French Revolution, led by the youth no less. (Funny enough, it was giving me major "Occupy Wall-Street" vibes).

This was also around the part of the film where I had no idea was what going to happen from this point on. Wasn't even aware that there was a love triangle in this movie.

Samantha Barks, as everyone who'd followed the production of the film knows, played Eponine in the stage show and she was every bit as professional as everyone else.  
My friend Dave posted a couple of bits on his Facebook page, poking fun at the fact she's singing how she's in love with this guy, Marius and at the same time, he's singing about how beautiful Cosette is, despite the fact he'd only just seen her for the first time.

I had to ask myself. "Dude, you just saw her for the first time and hadn't even spoken to her yet. How can you be in love with her?"... apparently forgetting all about her storyline with Jean Val Jean.
Then again, they did the same thing in "Sweeney Todd" with Anthony and Johanna, but I didn't question it then.

Marius and Cosette spent a lot of time pining for each other, only sang in each other's company once and suddenly, it's a relationship. I didn't buy it for a while.
Eponine is a tragic character in a number of ways, but I don't think anything made me feel bad for her more than who her parents were (take a wild guess!). 

Another confusing moment was when Javert passed himself as part of the resistance, I assume to be a fly on the wall, get inside information to inform his troops... he was found out quickly enough. Bring Jean Val Jean back into the mix (he's all but forgotten about in the 2nd act until he receives the note from Marius to Cosette) and more conflict ensues within Javert.

Not to give too much more away, Jean Val Jean escapes with a wounded Marius via the sewer line and they did not skimp on the graphics at all... really is as gross as it sounds. The revolution comes and goes. There's one happy ending in this entire show, but when it finally gets here, the finale was pretty spectacular.

From an aesthetic POV, take away the length, it's probably the best executed musical they'd done in a long time.
From a personal POV, it was amazing, but at the same time, I don't see myself watching this as many times as my other favorite musicals. If anything, it's a one-time-a-year thing.

Grade: A

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