Loo Reviews: written by me on my loo for you to enjoy on yours!
Summary: A duty-bound cop and a reformed crim sing about chasing each other around France while poor people sing about how crap their lives are while some young lovers sing about a love triangle while their mates sing about revolution while some dodgy people sing about being dodgy. The End.
Here’s a joke my late Grandpa loved to tell. “A man went to see Les Misérables. He came out and said, ‘I thought it was very good. But which one was Les?'” Yeah, that’s right Twitter, my Grandpa was making that joke in 1989.
5 Good Things
1. Hugh. It’s a big job, but Hugh pulls it off with his singing chops, emotional intensity, and a variety of facial hair – all the more impressive for the fact that director Tom Hooper famously made all his actors sing live to camera. This film must rate as a personal career highlight for Hugh, though probably not as much as the AFI Awards he hosted in 2007 when he wore a pink Stackhat and I played a minor role in a comedy sketch involving a fake award for Best Seatfiller. No thanks for me at the Globes podium though. Noted.
2. Anne. A star dramatic turn from the girl-next-door goofball, particularly in the show-stopping single-shot ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and, um, another big scene. (What? I have to protect you from spoilers in a story first published in 1862?) I will probably marry Anne Hathaway one day if both of our spouses don’t mind.
3. Sasha and Helena as the Thénardiers. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are the film’s comic relief couple, and have clearly been given permission to bring full ham. Baron Cohen is the only actor who sees fit to adopt a French accent, which is great, because Victor Hugo’s novel sorely lacks a touch of ‘Allo ‘Allo.
4. Emotion. You can’t whisper a tender lyric on the live musical stage; you have to sing it to the back row of the theatre. A film adaptation frees those more loving or desperate moments to be more powerful when shared quietly, intimately, with the camera. (The camera, of course, records those intimate moments, and shares them with the whole world. An astonishing breach of trust.)
5. Gavroche. I thought the kid playing Gavroche was just about perfect for the role. MrsJavaBeans had a minor quibble, which is a spoiler, and I will reveal it at the very end, after you have a chance to look away.
5 Bad Things
1. Singing. Look, I love musicals like a nanna, and I’ve always loved this musical. But nearly the whole film is sung, and it can wear you down a bit. Especially if you’re not into musicals, or singing. Then again, traditional musicals where people spontaneously burst into song in the middle of a chat, while not as demanding, do look more stupid. Do you hear the people sing? YES. CAN THEY GIVE IT A REST FOR JUST FIVE MINUTES?!
2. Inappropriate singing. I guess it’s the opposite of number 4 above. For every tender, whispered moment, there’s another moment where someone takes ten minutes to sing “This is a matter of urgency,” or baritones “We’ve got a good hiding spot, I hope they don’t find us and kill us all!” at the top of their lungs. Survival tip: When the war comes, don’t hang around the triple-threats.
3. The love story. The love triangle is the cue for some of the show’s most memorable tunes, but it’s also a good chance to pop out for that toilet break you’re hankering for. At least at the theatre you get an intermission in the middle of it all.
4. The stagey feel. OK, so I couldn’t pull together a three-hour period epic, but I think I found the production design just a little too pretty for Hugosian Paris. (I figure “Hugosian” is the French equivalent of “Dickensian.”)
5. Russ. Poor Russell Crowe has copped a fair bit of flak for this movie. Credit where it’s due, despite the critics, the guy can hold a tune. But his brooding persona as Javert does not fit snugly with his pub rock voice, and in this he probably suffers by comparison to the stage show soundtracks. He might have come off better if the role had not been originated on the West End by Roger Allam, and was instead personified by, say, Shannon Noll, or Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson.
A few further thoughts after the photo, but there be spoilers…
*** SPOILERS ***
Let the record show that Mrs Java Beans saw Gavroche breathe after he died.
Russell Crowe’s death scene is accompanied by one of the most jarring, bone-breaking sound effects I’ve ever heard. It was an odd touch of hyper-realism, given the genre.
A final lesson (again observed by Mrs Java Beans): if you are forced by destitution to shave your head just before you die, apparently you don’t get your hair back in the afterlife.