, , , , ,

Nat thought – cutting pretty patterns in her arms with a blunt knife would be more fun than watching this.

This won’t be long.

I had never “done” Les Mis in any of its forms (book, theater, 2 previous film versions) before this film, thinking it sounded too long, too boring and a bit of an all round downer. Well when I finally gave in and watched this version I was surprised to find that it was indeed too long, too boring, and a massive downer but also full of great actors who can’t sing. Nobody thought to use the auto-tune? Really?

Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) has done a  brilliant job of evoking the look and feel of the era. I imagine anyway, not really knowing much about revolutionary late 19th century France. Seriously, it looks amazing. Everyone is so dirty and bedraggled and there’s enough blistering facial sores and rotten teeth on show to make me want to don rubber gloves and a face mask in case you can catch something through the telly.

This is what Anne Hathaway normally looks like.

les mis anne h

Seriously, this is her just popping down the road for some milk.

And this is what she looks like in the film.

les miserables -anne

Oi vey! Where’s my hand sanitiser?

This is Hugh going out for the papers.

les mis - hugh j 2

And this is him as Jean Valjean.

les mis -Hugh+Jackman


Doing the promo tours, Hugh and Anne have made a big deal about how Hooper came up with the “brave” and “innovative” choice of recording the singing performances live, so what we hear is not some studio adjusted, perfectly pitched version but raw and real and emotional. Never been done before, apparently. After watching the film, I’m now wondering if telling us that is more of an apology and/or a warning to the consumer than merely gushing about a director with a revolutionary vision. But I guess he had to make a decision; fabulous acting with so-so singing or fabulous singing with so-so acting. I wonder what we would have if he went the other way.

Oh my gawd. I’m sorry, but the singing is awful. Really, really awful. I’m no musician, I don’t really know much about pitch, but bloody hell, my eyes squinted so much in response to what my ears were being put through, I thought I suddenly had Tourettes. The only people who didn’t have me twitching an involuntary Morse code when they opened their mouth were the little grubby blonde kid, Gavroche and Eddie Redmayne, whatever his name was in it, Mars Bar or something. I read later that the kid had already played his role on stage, so there you go, he’s a proper musical child. Believe me, it shows. I just don’t get it. Why make it a musical at all if you don’t care about good singing?

So was there anything good about it? Yes, yes there was. As I already said, it looks amazing. The actors are all very, very good. Hugh and Anne’s emotional capabilities are endless, even while they are strangling cats with their vocal cords, I’m still feeling it. And Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, obviously the comic relief, are very funny. It’s a blessed relief from all that misery when they are on the screen.

Spoiler Alert – skip this paragraph if you are the one other person on the planet besides me who hasn’t ever seen Les Miserables. As of the time of writing this, Anne Hathaway had just won best supporting actress at the Golden Globes. But she’s in it for, like, 20 minutes. Was her 20 minutes of admittedly superlative acting amid terrible singing really better than any other female supporting performance for the past year? I think it’s just because she cut off her really long hair, lost weight (although I couldn’t tell, she’s normally a twig anyway) and slapped a load of dirt on her face. I swear, ugly yourself up in a  role and you’ll win awards. Nicole Kidman/The Hours anyone? Charlize in Monster? OK, that’s not fair, they were great and those films were fab. But still.

One other thing. Why the rubber duck do so many people have a cockney accent? Aren’t we supposed to be in France? Everyone sounds like they’re born and bred in bloody Essex. It’s not “The Only Way is the Slums of Paris”, is it? What’s with the East London accents? Am I missing something? Should I have researched this?

I’m probably not going to be the popular opinion with this review. From all accounts, the masses are lapping this shit up. But I don’t care. I think I’ll just chalk it up to another unsolved mystery of the universe. I would advise you not to bother, but nobody will listen to me and plenty of people will love it. Fair enough. Whatever floats your galley ship.

And just like with Django Unchained, I don’t think I need to tell you the plot. The story line’s not going to have anything to do with your decision process is it? You’re just going to decide whether or not you want to sit through a musical. As in a full on musical, 157 minutes of every bit of dialogue, except about six words, sung to you (and more often than not, sung badly). If that’s a yes, sure, sounds great – then go for it.

Hmm… that was a bit long after all wasn’t it? Ooops.