I really really wanted to love Les Mis. I’ve seen it on stage 4 times. The tour, the revival, West End, Broadway….I convinced our high school chorus teacher to let us do a Les Mis medley during our farewell senior concert. I know all the words. Like all girls who took high school drama, I have bared my soul by singing On My Own in class (in front of my crush). I’ve bawled listening to the soundtrack. I have a favorite cast. I’m kind of a snob about it.
When I found out that the director of The King’s Speech was turning it into a movie with Hugh Jackman, I couldn’t wait until it was released. I’ve been bouncing in my seat every time a preview for the movie came on since my best friend sent me the first teaser. Literally. I speculated about who would play Eponine. I teared up at my desk watching the trailer for I Dreamed a Dream. I was really excited.
I forgave the slight song and scene alterations in the opening numbers because Anne Hathaway was such a convincing Fantine. I even appreciated the little plot additions to show the escape to Paris. The Thenardiers stole the show…. and then….somehow the air went out of the whole production.
I appreciate the concept of live singing, in theory. In reality, I think the emotion gets in the way. so many characters end up chewing the reality of the scenery and talking their way through these songs. They were so moved I wasn’t. Javert did not resonate. I was much more focused on the strange staging of On My Own than the song itself. On Day More was just confusing.
I didn’t cry once (I always cry in Act II). I crossed my arms. I think I even snorted.
They cut, CUT! whole chunks of song. For example, you learn about the individual students’ characters through their group numbers – since so much of these songs were cut, you didn’t care about them; when they died, it didn’t matter.
The very theatricality that makes Act II work hobbles the movie. Empty Chair at Empty Tables was hollow. The end didn’t work. I wanted to run straight to a theatre and show my boyfriend that, no, this is not how it’s supposed to be, see, it’s an epic epic musical!
Would I feel this way if I didn’t love the show so much? Probably not. I’ve always rather disliked the non-musical versions that come out about once a decade. As a movie, it holds up as a good story. As my Les Mis, it fell very short.