Les Misérables (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Les Misérables</strong> (2012)

(On Cable TV, October 2013) A quick trawl through these reviews will reveal that when it comes to movie musicals, I’m a very forgiving reviewer.  I have embraced the musical in its post-Moulin Rouge era and a few disappointments aside, I’m usually fond of the genre.  So imagine my surprise when I found myself annoyed, bored and exasperated by Les Misérables, surely one of the most instantly recognizable examples of the genre to come down the Broadway-to-Hollywood route.  I groaned when I realized that Les Misérables would not only be wall-to-wall singing, but that nearly every song would sound the same and drag on forever.  More than once, I left the living room for errands and came back minutes later to characters expressing the same emotion.  For all of its nice cinematography and convicting re-creation of a troubled period in French history, Les Misérables plods on for more than an excruciating two hours and a half, on a musical register than barely varies from one song to the next. Perhaps my powers of concentration are gone; maybe I’m just picky when I should be forgiving.  And it’s not as if the actors are slacking, given how many of them do well with parts that exceed their signing range. Seeing Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and a thoroughly unglamorous Helena Bonham Carter voice their miserable condition is interesting as in we-haven’t-seen-this-too-many-times-before, but they can’t make the pace move more quickly, or change the film’s intention to make nearly every line of dialogue sung.  (Still, I note that the most memorable performance comes from musical-cast-member Samantha Barks, who makes the most out of a limited role as Éponine)  Les Misérables is lavish filmmaking on the highest level –but it’s annoying for idiosyncratic reasons that I can’t fully articulate.  Upon reflection, through, it occurs to me that I’m fonder of original-movie-musicals rather than straight-up adaptations of existing Broadway shows.  Let’s keep the musicals on Broadway, and use the cinema screen for something that fully exploits cinema as a medium.

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