Les Misérables : Preliminary Thoughts

I have been a fan of Les Misérables – the musical – since I was 10  years old.  To this day, it remains my favorite musical (even though, technically speaking, it isn’t really a musical at all).   I am part of that demographic that not only likes theatre and I like musicals in general, but knows just about every line of this particular show by heart.  I even have a favorite rendition: the 10th Anniversary Concert, performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995.  I have also read the book (albeit ages ago).

That being said, my perspective going into this, the 2012 film adaptation is going to be incredibly skewed.  I am a subjective audience member and I admit that, openly.  My main concerns deal with the treatment of the show that I know and love.  From the announcement of the cast list to the release of the teaser trailer, I have been extremely nervous about this movie.  I am, at this point, reluctant to see the film because of the NUMEROUS bad reviews and because of the sub-par quality of the soundtrack of highlights released on iTunes.  In principle, the filmmakers’ choice to cast A-List celebrities, primarily actors rather than singers, pisses me off.  This happens in most movie-musicals it seems and I continue to be at a loss for WHY filmmakers haven’t gotten the message yet.  Singing roles should be played by singers.  Casting unknowns (with maybe one or two big names in the mix) does not necessarily constitute a lack of ticket sales.  The Wizard of Oz was a big break for Judy Garland, remember?

Major pieces of the show have been dropped.  Expected, but by no means not disappointing.  And, on that note, the big complaint I see from so many people is from the rushed feel of the movie and the musical at large.  As far as the musical itself goes – yeah.  It’s a long f***king story.  Have you SEEN the size of the text?  The amazing thing about Les Mis the musical is that it DOES manage to tell the bulk of the story in one stage production.  That’s damned difficult.  Do the melodies repeat?  Sure; show me a musical – or, better yet, an opera – that does not.  The reasons for those repeats are there for a reason, they aren’t arbitrary or simply there for their own sake, in spite of what so many critics are saying.  If that bothers you, then this musical is just not your style and that’s absolutely fine, but it is hardly the musical’s fault.   In defense of the film, even without seeing it, I can say that I expected it to be extremely rushed.  There’s no intermission and it’s running in cinemas, rather than a theatre or opera house.  There is a LOT to get through, and that came with the territory.  Is that a reasonable excuse?  No, but it’s something that people shouldn’t be so scandalized or shocked by.  Such a problem comes with the territory of any stage musical being transitioned to film – at least one that is THIS massive in scope and story.

I could go on and on about this.  There have been dozens of interpretations of Les Mis and it has YET to be done better then the four-hour French film produced in 1934.  I have heard good things along with the bad, but overall I am left torn and unsure of whether or not to see this movie at all.

I haven’t had much luck with films lately – I was severely disappointed with The Hobbit for reasons that I expect to repeat with Les Mis and I am not exactly anxious to re-experience those feelings of upset, anger and defensiveness over something that means so much to me.


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