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Les Miserables: Why You’ll Love It, Why You’ll Hate It, And Why You Should See It

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Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

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Here’s a bog I wrote after seeing Les Mis in January. Since the Oscars were last night, and Les Mis is popular on movie bucket lists again you might have doubts about going to see it – I have to tell you – it’s worth seeing! Now check out why:

I may have mentioned before the radio world I came from a few different walks of life, two mainly being the salon/spa industry and the theater community (Can you guess which one is going to come into play here?). Though as a former make up artist I would love to dish on how amazing and scarily accurate the make up was done in Les Mis, but that’s not where this ‘lil blog is going…

I mentioned before in Les Miserables: Will You See It? that the theater community was a little tense about the release of their beloved Victor Hugo classic Les Miserables – mostly because they can recite the entire show/story in their sleep – myself included. We’ve studied the roles, the characters, vocally trained with the songs, etc. My poor boyfriend had to listen to bursts of Les Mis songs randomly throughout the house days after I saw it…

I digress. I went to see Les Mis just 1 day after it opened – and I was in tears by the time Fantine appaered – but then I know full well what’s coming… and Anne Hathaway played THE best Fantine I have ever seen (when you’re in the theater, you see a lot of Fantines come & go)…

Enough of that – let’s get down to it.

Why You’ll Love It:

It’s a classic story – and a classic can’t just be conjured up of just anything. A sensational story is makes up what is a “classic” – and that is exactly what Les Miserables is. This adaptation is in nearly total song form. Music lovers will adore it.

It’s a musical (see also ‘Why You’ll Hate It’ below) The main chords played throughout the the movie (and show) mimic a wheel turning through the years – it’s catchy – tough to get out of your head (see also, ‘Why You’ll Hate It below’). Suffice it to say, you’ll be entertained. Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne, give excellent vocal performances – and you barely notice there are no studio effects on their vocals. The ensemble pieces are excellent too.

The musical adaptation is nearly the purist form of the actual story and the points Victor Hugo was trying to make through his extensive (and I mean extensive) novel of 1222 pages, (no, that’s not a typo – Hugo was the king – nay – god – of the run on sentence). So you’ll see over 1200 pages summed up in about 2 hours.

The acting of the movie is intense – it’s raw and personal and shows you the deepest darkest moments in all the characters lives. There are many intimate, up close shots so you see every dreadfully painful, heart-wrenching emotion, every wince the actors give you (and they give you plenty).

The scenes are gritty and accurate to the time period. History purists will love it. From the horse dung in the streets to the herpes on the prostitutes – it’s scarily accurate. At one point, Valjean carries Marius through the sewers – and you see what the sewers actually look like – not the cleaned up version of sewer tunnels in most films.

It will make you cry (see also ‘Why You’ll Hate It’ below), and I mean cry. Most people can’t make it through the Fantine scenes without shedding at least a few tears. You’d have to be missing a heart to sit through Les Mis and not feel anything.

Why You’ll Hate It:

It’s a classic. Some people are just culture haters. Sad, but true.

It’s a musical. There are only a handful of words spoken throughout this entire adaption of the novel. The songs will stick with you and run over and over in your head. If you hate songs, check out the version I recommended in my previous blog starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman. No singing there.

If you’re a purist for the stage version. If you’ve seen this on the stage a hundred and one times, and feel the exchange of emotion through a live performance, you might not be so cray cray about the movie (though I still recommend seeing it). Also if you’re a purist, you might have wanted a little less intensity at times from Hugh Jackman, and a lot more intensity from Russel Crowe. The good news? The ultimate Valjean from the stage (Colm Wilkinson) appears as the Bishop in the movie. Now that man had the character of Valjean down….

I digress. Also, if you’re a purist, you might think they crammed a little too much into the ‘Master Of The House’ scenes. I get what the director was going for with it – I’m just not sure it worked as well as hoped. I will say Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are great in the roles of the Thenardiers.

The acting is intense and raw, so are the voices in the songs. Meaning, if you’re expecting amazing vocals in the movie version, you might be disappointed. Not that there is anything wrong with any of the actors singing abilities, you’re not going to get the vocals with the sweetening of acoustics in a theater.

Movies like this inspire us to read the novel. All 1222 pages. Let me know how that works out for you, and if you get past all that mumbo jumbo about Napolean & Waterloo….

It’ll make you cry. If you hate having your emotions on display, you’re going to hate every second of stifling all those sniffles. This story takes you through the gambit of emotion.

Why you should see it:

You can hold your own in social circles and dinner parties, and once you’ve seen the movie and since you’ve read this blog, you now know that the novel is over 1200 pages – and Victor Hugo goes on and on a bit, so you might be able to hold your own in literary circles too. You’re welcome.

Because it’s an amazing story about defying the odds, no matter how brutal (and I mean brutal) life becomes. Love wins. It’s the kind of story where right and wrong meet survival and good and bad get lost in the shades of gray in a very brutally black and white world.

So go see the movie – or at least some version of the story. Trust me. It’s good stuff.

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