Thoughts on the New Les Miserables

les miserables

I’ve waited a few days to comment on this film, because as an INTJ, I like to be sure of my opinions before I share them — and frankly, walking out of this movie, I felt conflicted. I’ve since had the “thinking time” to solidify and sort out both my emotions and my views.

Les Miserables is arguably one of the most epic, powerful stories ever written. At its heart, it is about redemption, transformation, and a changed life. It’s about mercy vs. legalism — the letter vs. the spirit of the law. And in its many incarnations, it always comes down to its grounding in faith. Victor Hugo may have abandoned his faith eventually, but it is certainly present in his novels!

This version is more accurate to the book than any before it (and likely any after it) — it is a grand, sprawling story with all the many characters and nuances of the novel — which is both its strength and its weakness where I’m concerned. To put it bluntly, so much is happening, so many lives unfolding, that Valjean is reduced to one among many and his redemption tends to get lost in the shuffle. And therein lies my quandary — what I love most about the story is its message, but here, rushing from song to song, it felt in some respects absent, or at least not the main focus. It troubled me at first — indeed, it took a great deal of thought and a second viewing for me to decide that’s “okay.” There is more than one adaptation, after all — the earlier film can focus more openly on the themes of redemption, and this can be the grand ensemble.

My first time through I was distracted by the camera techniques — I still hate them, but they no longer keep me from the heart of the film and from falling in love with its music and its characters. I have a creeping suspicion that in time, I’ll love the movie in spite of its faults. I am familiar with the musical — I grew up on the music, and although it’s not my favorite Broadway production, I do love its sense of majesty and poetry in the lyrics, as well as how brutally raw some of the songs can be. And here, they are indeed raw — passionate, heartfelt, tearful, and several of them absolutely break my heart. I know everyone is pooh-poohing Russell Crowe, but I honestly thought his approach to “Stars” was … well, wonderful.

les miesrablesMy favorite aspect of this story is its approach to Javert — to me at least, he was likable… understandable… pitiable… and for the first time, I felt an immense sense of remorse at his fate. Usually, I’m relieved to see him go — but here, I wanted to pull him off the ledge, maybe because I see a lot of myself in him. My very nature is judgment over mercy. I believe in sets of “rules” and have little compassion for those who step outside them. And if it weren’t for me having had a salvation experience, I would still be like Javert.

Although this story moves so fast it’s hard to get any character development, I do have to say that Amanda and Eddie really sold me on Cosette and Marius being in love. It’s incredible that they could convince a cynical, jaded INTJ like me that it is (… no, it isn’t) possible to fall in love so quickly. And… Anne Hathaway has grown up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more raw, beautiful performance. Just hand her that Oscar — she deserves it.

My opinion of this film is that it’s good, but not great. I’m sorry, but the filming technique for me undermined it more than I would have liked. The extreme close-ups and the shaky camera work will never grow on me, but I can’t deny that it’s still an incredible story.

Regarding the much-touted sexual content — if you’re sensitive, wait and rent the DVD, then fast-forward through “Master of the House.” You won’t miss anything of the plot, but you’ll avoid almost all the offensive content. “Lovely Ladies” isn’t squeaky clean either, but it’s a lot less bawdy than I anticipated.

59 thoughts on “Thoughts on the New Les Miserables

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  1. Though definitely having an overdose of the movie and the whole plot too, I go on refelecting on it πŸ™‚ Strange, but I understood today all of a sudden (though understanding is not the right word – I felt it) that people often put themselves in a sort of uniform as a defence against the hostile surroundings. Either there is real hostility around, or it is just your own cowardice and paresse. But as soon as you yourself decide or someone else asks you, or the circumstances force you to make at least something good, the shell begins to break, and you find such a radiance that you can’t keep smiling. And in the same time – you can’t help being terrified with how sharp or egoist you’ve been while in that quasiuniform.
    Maybe it’s the Gabin movie that makes one feel so.
    But if you can persist in the shell for a long time, then you are surely most miserable. But if you had the wrong surroundings for a long time, and while being young? Of course it doesn’t mean you have the right to stay in that inhumane state. But at least it is some explanation. But I don’t know how it feels, and I can’t explain how.

      1. And full of Bible-thumping? πŸ™‚ An Orthodox priest usually masters both the Bible and the father’s of the Church well in his reflections. πŸ™‚
        I was just listening the “End credits” music from the movie, and an idea came to me of a possible fanfic: “Stars”, but with lyrics about mercy and peace. The music is just so beautiful, and the characted needs so much hope that I am full of hope for him.
        BTW, did you watch the 1957 and 1982 French “Les Miserables” movies?

          1. I’ve seen an old version (not sure which one), the 70’s Perkins version (he was great as Javert), the miniseries from about twelve years ago, the Rush/Neeson version, and now the musical. Each has something good about it.

  2. Yet I found what spoils the movie much: the choice for the location in the finale. For one acquainted with the song’s lyrics, to see it being sung on a barricade with government soldiers’ bodies seems really strange. 😦 If they meant 1848, it’s totally misguiding to show this revolution as a way to paradise!

      1. Yes, sure. And it spoils so much the total symbolic system created by the whole movie… They avoided any anti-religious things even in the barricade stuff – the students’ just look a good but misguided group of youth who were cruelly punished for their mistakes.
        Really, this finale was my biggest disappointment about the new “Les Miserables”. You see, when I watched it for the first times in Internet, it was a version chopped some 10-15 minutes before the end credits start…

        1. The finale of the musical has always undermined the principle of the book, which is salvation THROUGH CHRIST, not through deeds. By having everyone (except Javert) on the barricades, the implication is that their ACTIONS saved them, rather than their faith. Yet, Javert did arguably the most self-sacrificing thing of all, in killing himself so that Valjean might live — so why isn’t he there?

          1. I assume basically he killed himself because of despair. Since Javert was almost the only person by that time (probably) who would chase Valjean for breaking parole, he could have forgot it and stop chasing him, thus saving Valjean. But… he couldn’t.
            Javert could not merge the necessity to save Valjean into the right way acceptable for him. He could not accept salvation, learn how to cope with this new understanding, something like this. Hugo describes it as a chaos seen by Javert in the sky.
            We do not know his final fate, of course, but Christianity always used to underline that suicide is not a solution. That’s just a matter of Christian pedagogy. You may try to find this “easy” way to “give the ticket back”, but this means you want to act as God. The very rare exceptions of acceptable suicides always have a better explanation then Javert’s suicide because of his own misunderstanding of the basic principles of life.
            It also seems strange to me that guys from the barricade are in that “heaven”, but the song makes you feel the dead people singing have some new understanding of life now, and they will not build a barricade anymore. Still in the movie, they are waving flags and guns all excited over a true barricade. And – what is even more shocking – we have Valjean glad among them.
            It spoils much the ideas of the movie…

      2. Anyway, the fact that the scene looks so strange in the movie slightly helps to accept the fact that Javert should not be there.
        Though some claim they see it in the movie’s finale. Which I believe is strange. Especially with such a video sequence around πŸ™‚

        1. Sorry, I meant to write “some claim they see him”. Hope he is not there, however – both because of the original meaning of the song and because of the barricade-with-dead.

  3. Maybe Crowe’s Javert not being one-dimensional is really a default? It makes his suicide a little unbelievable. You still have hope until the end that this character will turn up to something better. Because of the sympathy and sometimes mercy that Crowe shows. And because of the constant sadness in his eyes.

    1. I get that people have a hard time understanding his suicide, but I also don’t find it that hard to believe, considering his entire world just fell in around him. But yes, with this Javert, I live in the hope of his salvation. (I also feel this way about Anthony Perkins’ Javert, in the 1978 version.)

  4. Some spoliers…
    Some commentators in different YouTube versions of “Confrontation” think that Valjean’s escape in the Confrontation in the movie if different both to the book (of course!) and the musical (he struck Javert and ran away) seems to be weekness (not “I’m the stronger man by far”). But I found a first draft of the script at a Universal website, and it said that as Valjean leaps right into the sea, Javert is afraid to follow him. I don’t know if the final movie follows this idea.
    What do you think of Crowe’s play in this moment – what is the emotion that we see?
    Besides, the final movie doesn’t have some lyrics from the original song. As some commentator wrote, they wisely allow us to listen well to Javert’s sudden remarks about his own life. And in the same time, the missing counterpoint words are about Valjean’s readiness to kill Javert.
    This is maybe the key point. We both have
    – a humanistic touch to Javert
    – a better Valjean character in the movie then in the musical – he risks his life, but flees from Javert. His objective is to find Cosette. Killing Javert is not the thing he wants.
    – And physically, Javert is not afraid of death, as we see in more places. But I’ve read in some comments where people were argueing about the reasons of his final decisions in the movie – a suggestion that he couldn’t face his cowardice (some events in connection with the riot were in question, probably). But maybe this not-leap-into-sea moment also relates to this? In the same time, it gives us a logical and rather cool man. NOT obsessed only with getting Valjean just for the sake of getting him. No. He has more duties in his everyday life.
    OH NO! Just now I realise that finally… THIS IS ONE MORE FORESHADOWING of what happens later. Stars scene is a more obvious one. But here, the sea at his feet…
    And maybe – if he is really afraid of heights – Javert trains himself not to be afraid of them? And thus the walks of the ledge like in “Stars” (looks like this exercise is familiar to him) or the lonely post in the Prologue are more then metaphors. They show us a self-made character again.
    Even if this version of the explanation of the look in Confrontation and the ledge walk is too flat, my respect goes to Crowe for such a Javert again.

    1. “a better Valjean character in the movie then in the musical – he risks his life… Killing Javert is not the thing he wants.”
      – and it confirms again that he is truly stronger by far in moral matters πŸ™‚

    2. I don’t think Javert was fearful of death — not only did he walk along the edge of the precipice in “Stars,” he also went behind the barricades KNOWING if he got caught, they would kill him. I don’t see his hesitation over leaping into the sea after Valjean as fear, but rather reluctance to engage in a pursuit that would not succeed (how could you find someone in the water, at night?).

      As regards his suicide at the end — he killed himself because:

      a) he discovered all his beliefs his entire life were wrong (that a sinner can’t be redeemed)
      b) he realized in letting Valjean go, he’d violated his own standard of conduct (thus, he must be punished)
      c) he knew that it was either him or Valjean that must die; since Valjean spared him, Javert took his own life to “free” Valjean from further pursuit

      Now, there’s a lot of arguments out there as to which personality type Javert is — most believe he is an ISTJ, for his unwillingness to lie, his resistance toward “evil,” and his dogged determination to stick to age-old tradition. However, others have suggested that he’s an INTJ — when confronted with a belief that doesn’t reconcile with his chosen worldview (not one handed to him, but that he picked — which is a very INTJ trait), he re-evaluates and “corrects” the problem (by killing himself).

      Where Valjean is concerned… I find him more forgettable in the musical than in many other versions, where he DOES struggle more in remaining on the right path; in the 1998 movie, he actually bashes Javert in the head in order to escape (and as “punishment” for frightening Fantine to death). Making THIS Valjean simply duel Javert off and then leap into the sea makes him seem less… violent than the character actually should be. I like it more when he’s struggling against his violent nature; that’s when we really see the change that his faith made in him.

      1. You are right… After some thinking, I believe too that the idea of “fear of heights” is too strange. It is more the cool thinking not to jump. It underlines the cool self-confident character. While “Stars” describes a kind of a way he assures his self-confidence. Maybe also the walk over ledge does.
        As for Valjean, it seems that after the “Who am I” interiour evolution, Valjean becomes ever more Christian in his behavior. Truly Christian. No arrogance, price or revenge. Just as much mercy as possible. And he has an important gole – save Cosette.
        Or maybe – the movie’s Confrontation also suggests it – he is also impressed by Javert’s words about the inspector’s origins and undestands Javert as a mirror of himself. And even doesn’t want to fight him. It’s a kind of charity, perhaps. Or maybe the address that Javert showed in the duel gave Valjean a hint that it would be better to escape anyway and save Cosette then have one or both of them killed. (The “There is nothing I won’t dare / If I have to kill you here / I’ll do what must be done!” lines from the musical aren’t missing for nothing in the movie…) The jump into the sea was a victory of risk with purpose of saving someone over the risk in a duel. We see a Valjean with more battle inside. About “Who am I” and repentance over “missing” Fantine’s drama. It is shown in such a subtle way in the movie, with the Mayor seeing the Inspector – stunning.
        What do you think? πŸ™‚

        1. “Stars” does assert his self-confidence, a confidence that is shattered in “Javert’s Suicide”:

          And must I now begin to doubt,
          Who never doubted all these years?
          My heart is stone and still it trembles
          The world I have known is lost in shadow.
          Is he from heaven or from hell?
          And does he know
          That granting me my life today
          This man has killed me even so?

          I am reaching, but I fall
          And the stars are black and cold
          As I stare into the void
          Of a world that cannot hold
          I’ll escape now from the world
          From the world of Jean Valjean.
          There is nowhere I can turn
          There is no way to go on

          I don’t know what to think of the missing lyrics — they had to shorten it somehow, so Tom Hooper and his team went through and trimmed lyrics wherever they could that wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the music / make a jumbled mess of the songs.

          But you may have a point about Valjean — the changes make him seem much more human and far less … harsh. It’s Javert that distracts him from Fantine’s situation in the factory; therefore, he didn’t turn her out because of judgment or cruelty.

          1. Javert is really a very sad story from the Christian point of view. Crowe’s Javert – the one who looked with calm interest and maybe even some admiration a mayor tolerating the prostitute spitting on him, and who did many other righteous things, I believe, – to end like this.
            It is one of the most tragic pieces showing human error. So tragic that it’s difficult to bear when you think about it.
            Have you maybe seen the Haibane Renmei anime? (I don’t like anime, but this one in interesting).

          2. Yes, he is tragic — probably the most tragic figure in the story, because when given the same mercy Valjean experienced, he chooses not to accept it. I’ve actually written about Javert before — you can find it in the Les Miserables tag.

            No, I haven’t — I’m not into anime at all.

            Also, what could have saved him was accepting that his worldview was wrong and changing it. =)

          3. Guess it’s pretty odd to change your view this way πŸ™‚ Maybe also pride or just despair that were following him since a long time put him into such a “nowhere to go” position?
            In Haibane Renmei, there is a heroine with despair who also deems she can’t be saved and never calls for help, but finally comes to ask for help and is saved from a nightmare of suicide. I was thinking about her when analyzing Javert.
            In Russian, since Hugo’s time, the novel’s name is translated as “Otverzhennije” which means more “outcast, reject”. Javert by his birth is also a part of them, which he clearly understands. Crowe’s Javert, at least, had some sadness in him through all the movie. And it seemed for some moment that he has a chance to climb out of this loneliness and despair. But seems that he couldn’t allow himself to accept any mercy. Well, that is pride.

  5. P.S. I also agree about quickly going forward the Master of the House and Lovely Ladies – I just can’t watch them both. Lovely Ladies is also too, too SAD.

  6. Hi Charity, I liked the way you described what you feel about Javert in the movie. Indeed, I didn’t watch the musical nor did I read the book (reading it now… or rather running across it :). I see that the book and the musical traditional depictions of Javert
    But Crowe’s depicton just knocked me. (Did you watch his inteview about how he worked on this? he didn’t agree to this role at first.) Quite like you, I guess that it’s because this pharisee in me is a bit close to Javert’s. My problem is that I’m not so sever towards myself πŸ™‚ Also Crowe’s timid voice when apologising to mayor etc. – sounds great.
    As a student, I also was an INTJ. But later, life maybe changed my habits, but inside, there is an INTJ part, I believe. πŸ™‚
    Also came to my mind that Javert is a bit close to Reki from Haibane Renmei anime – a heroine that I seem close to sometimes, because of my sin of falling into despair. πŸ™‚
    Greetings from a Russian Orthodox, also writing quite a lot. πŸ™‚

    1. I have a lot of respect for the sheer amount of research that Crowe put into this role. He also loved doing it, very much — so everyone ganging up on him and trashing his performance has angered me a bit. It’s a hard thing to put your soul into something and then get beat up for it.

      I think there may be a little bit of a Pharisee in a lot of us. =P

      1. Right, this is what I appreciate – the fact that the humane representation of Javert brings attention to how near we all are sometimes to such a dagerous, walking-over-ledge Pharisee pride.
        But I’m afraid sometimes that Crowe fascinates many viewers (mostly women) also in a kind of chemistry, and it just mixes up my own impressions 😦 Need to read some analyse like yours to put me right. Please give some of it if you feel like, you are welcome πŸ™‚

        1. Russell Crowe is a very charismatic actor — it’s hard NOT to be attracted to him. And while I do mind his voice at times (he’s not very good at speak-singing, but in fairness, no one else was either), overall I don’t think it’s bad. Hugh Jackman sang pretty badly too at one point, but no one is beating HIM up for it.

          1. Oh yes, this is an injustice.
            At some degree of repetitive watching&listening, Crowe’s charm started to annoy you, and then the whole attitude towards the movie went upside down. But I guess it’s my problem, not his. πŸ™‚
            It brings additional charm to Javert’s personality in the movie – he’s really superior to all the bawdy and criminal surroundings, even when he is present there. The encounter with Thenardier is really a bit of a strange thing. Maybe showing some character development: it seems that a younger Javert would be much less tolerant and more aggressive in such a surrounding.
            The costume designers also did a job with his looks. They explained somewhere that they emphasized the evolution with colours.

          2. I love it when Mrs. Thenardier thinks that showing a little bare skin is going to get Javert to let them off. Javert’s face is like NOPE.

          3. Interesing, really? I didn’t remark this nuance.
            I wonder why Javert took Gavroche in his hands in the beginning of the same episode – just to take him quickly & gently out of his way?

      2. And really, if you listen too much to his singing like I did, it starts to annoy you. Which is unfortunate. He really did a good job. Especially in some dialogues.

  7. Hey did you know there is a Les Miserables Miniseries? I discovered it on Netflix the other day, and I thought it was very intriguing to watch.

  8. I guess I’m the lone one out here – this is a movie that I’ve no desire in seeing, one in a long list of emotionally-charged movies I refuse to watch. I just can’t bring myself to watch a movie portraying THAT may emotions – it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    Many years ago, I was cajoled into watching Ghost, despite telling everyone, over and over, that I had no interest. No one really believed me. To pacify them, I sat through the whole, deplorable mess, and when asked “Now, aren’t you glad you watched it?” I answered a resounding, “NO!” Actually, I hated it. I hated that Patrick Swayze’s character died, I hated all the crying and I felt sick in my stomach.

    I’m quite freaked out by emotional movies. I tried watching Brokeback Mountain, but I had to turn it off. It took me years to work up the nerve to watch Schindler’s List, and I only made myself sit through it because I felt the movie was too important NOT to watch, no matter how squeamish I knew I would feel.

    Is there any movie you can’t watch?

    1. I don’t shy away from emotionally-charged movies if they have a purpose. I don’t like to cry watching anything — that’s a fact. But if the intellectual payoff of the movie is worth the tears, I’ll often enjoy it. (For example, Les Mis offers a ton of stuff to think about — morality vs. immorality, legalism vs. grace, etc.)

      But… yeah, there are movies I will never watch again because they were too sad — The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Schindler’s List, etc. I’ve actually quit watching Nicholas Sparks movies because they’re always too weepy at the end. =P

  9. I didn’t think the redemption story got lost at all, though that may have been because I’m so familiar with it that I could have seen it if they’d made the entire story about the Thenardiers. But no, I still don’t think it got lost. If it didn’t get lost in Hugo’s sewers and analysis of Waterloo, it definitely didn’t get lost amid Marius and Cosette and Eponine’s lovely singing.
    I completely agree about the camerawork. Jumpy-cam nearly made me sick, and I didn’t really need to see Javert’s individual pores 30 feet high, thank you. Also about Anne Hathaway. If she doesn’t get an Oscar, I shall protest, in some manner or other.
    Your analysis of Javert is quite fascinating. I understand where he’s coming from, but I always wanted to shake him and slap him upside the head, and I find him unbearably tragic, that his brain was so messed up and skewed that mercy made him commit suicide.
    I actually did love the whole movie madly. I was, however (and I’ve only just realized this now), a bit disappointed with Eponine. She was a little too “I’m a pretty, modern girl in a musical” and had none of the gamine waif about her that makes Eponine so heartbreaking. But Gavroche…oh, my, that boy was too perfect to exist.
    Aughh, the music was so amazing. I had no idea Eddie Redmayne could sing like that, or Anne Hathaway, or Amanda Seyfried. “Empty Chairs,” “God On High,” and “I Dreamed A Dream” all had me sobbing like a widow at a funeral in the movie theatre.

    1. I do think being familiar with it is both an asset (such as in our case, where we can remember the redemption story) and a problem — I wish I could see this film, or talk to someone who had never seen it before, with someone unfamiliar with the story, because then I’d get a better sense of whether or not the message does get lost. For me, so much was happening that there were times when I’d forget all about Valjean! Then he would turn up and I’d be like “… oh, right!”

      (Oddly, one of my dearest friends argues with me that her problem with the movie is that it was too much about Valjean and not enough about the ensemble! =P)

      I did almost get motion sick a couple of times — and I can get a bit of claustrophobia so when Javert was chasing them through that narrow Paris street, and the camera was swinging around wildly I went o.O.

      People are saying Anne’s not in it enough to get an Oscar. I say that’s rubbish — Judi Dench got an Oscar for her five minutes in Shakespeare in Love (the most undeserving Oscar of all time, in my opinion), so they can certainly give it to Anne!

      Javert’s tragedy is that when confronted with the same forgiveness as Valjean, he chooses the opposite path — Valjean looks at his life and chooses to become a better man; Javert is so upset that his preconceived ideas about justice could be terribly wrong that he can’t stand living with it.

      On a minor, but somewhat related note — I don’t know how much you know about personality types, but I’ve heard it argued that he’s an ISTJ because he is very much about “the law,” and keeping to the law — but I read an interesting tumblr post this morning that says he’s much more of an INTJ… which would explain a lot, and also why I can sort of understand where he’s coming from. He defined his own set of rules — not always governed by the actions of society, but fitting what he thought was appropriate, and when confronted with giving all that up, rather than expound the effort of changing into someone he has spent the last thirty years of his life hating — he simply takes the next logical step — he dies.

      Gavroche was indeed terrific. I also thought the little girl Cosette was marvelous — she has the most gorgeous little features and a beautiful voice. Anne surprised me, as did Eddie — but I knew Amanda could pull it off; she was wonderful in “Mamma Mia!” a few years back. =)

  10. Your thoughts *did* change on it. I do agree about the camera angles however–those were a little on the annoying side. As I shared in my post, I loved being able to go inside Javert’s head as to why he was contemplating suicide–I just hated Russell Crowe in the part. Fantine…yeah….her descent was handled as I think it should have been; it was raw and heartbreaking. Anne Hathaway deserves nothing less than the Oscar statuette

    You’re right, the redemption part of the story got lost in all of the storylines. And that disappointed me. But I can’t have everything in life =P

    1. Agree with Ella, here – you have changed your thoughts on this one, perhaps more so than even you realize. But that’s great – I’m glad it grew on you. For me, hearing that this version is the closest to the book makes me really sad! The 1998 adaptation is WAY more powerful.

      Ironically, I have to disagree with you about Cosette and Marius – while I “believed” they were in love, there was no time for them to be SO in love. But then, I recognize that is the way of the musical.

      So happy, it’s grown on you and you were able to see it a second time!!! πŸ™‚

      1. I’m quite aware of how my thoughts have changed on this one — the first time out I was like, “Wow… that sucked,” and my second time through I was like, “I… think I am starting to really like this movie.”

        The book is very, very much like this film — with Eponine loving Marius, and him pretending to be a poor college boy (with a rich grandfather), with the antics of the barricade boys, and so forth. They never say in the film so I’m not sure if it’s meant to be implied or not — but in the book, Gavroche (the child who dies) is Eponine’s little brother! When you realize that, seeing them side by side dead is really gut-wrenching — and makes you hate their parents all the more for not seeming to even care.

        Hugo was writing an epic, a spectacle… an ensemble. Comparing versions is rather like saying, “Do you want the full course or the heavily edited one?” Both have their merits, but anything heavily edited (like the 98 version, which remains my favorite) is going to get much more down to the point.

        For me, it helped that Amanda and Eddie had such great chemistry in their song together.

    2. It has been known to happen — me changing my mind. It’s rare, but it DOES occur!

      I think the ugly camera angles may be less problematic on a small screen, when you’re not rammed up an actor’s nostrils…

      Aww, no love for Crowe? Well, I do understand — he’s an odd choice! I’ve always liked him as an actor, so I went in predisposed to enjoy his Javert. And now, I want to rewatch all his movies I own and I have no time to do it!

      No, one can’t have everything — and it is lovely that they did such a good job with this film, even if it’s not perfect.

      1. Oh, gosh, yes! The song Amanda and Eddie sing together is BEAUFITUL and I do think it’s very easy and believable to be swept up in the story they are relaying.

  11. I have not seen this film yet, and while I WANT to, I’m not DYING to. Part of the reason is that I am so incredibly in love with the 1978 version of the film (with Richard Jordan as Valjean and Anthony Perkins as Javert). You know me, classic-era all the way, and I choose the 70’s version over the 30’s and 50’s…kind of shocking, I know. It was the first version I saw, and I was SO moved by it. The repentance scene at the feet of the bishop was so beautifully portrayed by Richard Jordan. I have never seen the Liam Neeson version, but of the ones I have seen, that beautiful element of the film is very much missing. And based upon what you have said about Valjean gotting lost amidst so many characters, I find that disappointing. After all, to me, his transformed heart is the star of this story.

    My daughter has seen this new version, and she agrees with you absolutely and completely about Anne Hathaway (and has done a blog post about the character Fantine). Like you, she liked it, but didn’t love it. The aspects she found particularly powerful in this one are Fantine’s downward spiral and Valjean’s death (he doesn’t die in our beloved 78 version).

    1. You can probably wait for the DVD, then — if it is a case of “wanting” and not “dying.” I understand your affection for a particular version (mine’s the 98 one, but more on that in a moment) and not wanting to taint it in any way by being disappointed with a new adaptation!

      I may have seen that version long ago, but I don’t remember much of it — so I need to track it down and give it a re-watch! (Anthony Perkins? Yeah!!) The 98 version really does trim all the “fat” off the novel, and focuses mostly on Valjean and Javert — it too does not conclude with Valjean’s death, but rather, his liberation from Javert’s endless stalking. There is no big scene at the Bishop’s feet — but that moment changes Valjean’s life forever. “With this silver, I’ve bought your soul.”

      Ella and I see pretty eye to eye on this version, I think — it’s good, but not great. Yet, I too thought that this version handled Fantine’s descent better than any before it — I actually cried during her solo, because I realized how broken and abused she was. And of course, I cried at the end when she comes to take Valjean to heaven. Darn these musicals, intent on making me go all weepy.

      I do recommend both this and the 98 film (with Neeson and Rush) though — I think both are powerful in their own way. =)

    1. My opinions do sometimes change — I couldn’t figure out WHAT was bugging me so much about this adaptation, until I realized it was the redemption being buried in amidst all the secondary plots. Once realizing that, my second viewing was much more relaxed — and I enjoyed it a lot more. That’s kind of what I hate about movie reviewing — you have to write something up based on one opinion formed on a day in which you’re often caught off guard. If you’re crabby that day, the movie may seem worse than it actually was — if you’re elated, it might seem better than it is.

      First, I had Rissi’s review up. Then, mine went up. Now, mine has changed slightly to be less harsh — but I do still hold some of the same views; I’m not a fan of the director’s style here at all, but it’s less distracting in the second half.

    1. I liked the foreshadowing they did in his earlier song, “Stars” — with him pacing along the ledge, basically doing the same footwork as his infamous leap. So sad.

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