Me & the Missus caught Les Miserable over the weekend. My Wife is a MASSIVE musicals buff and this, in her book, was the single most exciting cinema release since her misguided squees over the final Harry Potter instalment. I had to take her to see this movie as the dutiful and loving husband that I am.
Sadly; I could not see what all the fuss was about. In fact; I found the film to be an utter disaster. Dreadful. Mind-numbingly boring. A complete failure.
Let’s start with the source material. Is this really considered one of the greatest stories ever told? The novel, maybe, but what I watched is rubbish. It is utterly unconvincing. There is no real character development to speak of, and what there is seems to be totally random. Javert and Valjean’s relationship seems far too over dramatised. They meet only three times in 20 years, and two of those meetings are mostly by chance. It hardly feels as though Javert had truly dedicated his life to hunting Valjean to the ends of the Earth; he’s just a failed parolee he bumps into sometimes while he gets on with his day job.
The later love triangle was equally as unengaging and unconvincing; so much so that later lengths taken by Valjean to preserve Marius & Cosette’s amazing love seemed ridiculous and severely over the top.
And are the Thenardier’s supposed to be comic relief? If so; somebody forgot to make them funny.
The singing was like listening to a brood of pained, wailing cats. I don’t know how it sounds on the stage show but the off-key warbling I was subjected to in the movie was weird and grated my every nerve. Even if the character development was more convincing I don’t think I would have liked the musical style. Perhaps if the songs were sung by more accomplished, full-bodied singers (the film’s cast were appalling in my eyes) as every sung note felt like an offensive assault on my ears. I did not get it at all.
And what is with all of the fuzzy, shaky, extreme close-ups? What a fortune must have been spent on sets and costumes that weren’t actually seen on screen! A close-up does not magically transform a performance into an emotive one – as much as Hooper tries to convince us of the case. It seemed to me to be lazy cinematography at best and an unfocused mess at worst. I was so aware of the close-ups and the blurring it significantly effected my viewing of the whole film.
My Wife suggested to me two things that may have produced my view of the film; first, that the camera creates a distance from the narrative that the stage show does not, and so I was more emotionally detached from it all and less roused. Secondly, she was convinced that a number of the songs had been shortened and therefore lost some of the character development that occurs within. This may be true, however, having never seen the stage show I can’t speak to that – but consider it fair warning to those who have.
Ultimately; I think it just wasn’t my cup of tea. My inability to engage with the ‘true’ musical that is entirely sung dialogue are what heightened my awareness of my aforementioned perceived flaws in narrative, character development, vocal ability and cinematography.