Anna and I went to see Les Miserables last Saturday. I had never seen the stage show. All I really knew was that it was about poor people in Paris around the time of the French Revolution and that I dreamed a dream, Susan Boyle’s anthem,was in it.
The film is pretty powerful. It’s death every which way through the tragedies of brutal warfare or enduring poverty. Slow deaths sudden deaths punctuate the cat and mouse pursuit of Jean Vaijean by his jailer Javert. The amoral Thenardiers, played with just the right mix of evil and comedy by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, add some very dark humour to the proceedings.
I have a confession to make. The cinema was warm, and I’d had a large glass of merlot at lunchtime. So, sadly, I slept through most of Anne Hathway’s Fantine. I can tell you that she died well, but when she was singing I dreamed a dream, I was, well, dreaming. I feel bad about that. I do need to go back and see the film again because that was a pretty iconic bit to miss out. Fantine’s was the death that affected me the most, as she had to make arrangements for the child she’d been forced to leave.
For me, though, the standout performance was Samantha Barks. Eponine is quite a complex character. She’s clearly had a hell of an upbringing courtesy of her parents, the Thenardiers, but she ends up a mature, compassionate, loving person who is able not to give in to ward off bitterness and revenge.. She managed to convey her heartbreak and anger at her unrequited love for Marius and the inner conflict it creates with authenticity and tenderness.
Russell Crowe’s singing was not the best but I still think the way he portrayed Javert’s dogged and dogmatic pursuit of Vaijean was excellent.
The photography was amazing – the location shots incredible, particularly in Javert’s last scene.
The conclusion was needlessly melancholic and sentimental – although I guess they had to live up to the title and the book on which it was based.
I came out of the cinema feeling sad, angry at the needless brutality and loss and waste of life portrayed on screen but yet glad I’d seen such strong performances. I’d like to see the stage show next. Anna and I are planning a wee trip to London…