I read Victor Hugo’s masterpiece over a decade and a half ago, and while annoyed by its dire need of editing, was impressed by the scope of the work and how well it drew me into French history. I had never seen the musical, but given the level of anticipation for it and my enjoyment of musicals generally, I decided to check it out. I was not disappointed.
In fact I was extremely impressed – I must have heard “I Dreamed a Dream” somewhere else (Susan Boyle or Sarah Brightman), and I’m pretty sure I’ve either sung or played “Do You Hear the People” myself (The musical is old! But I suppose the book is really old!). Anyway, Hathaway’s performance was excellent, and I’m a huge fan of Hugh Jackman – I think he’s a good guy, and here he gets to play a good guy in a bunch of moral dilemmas.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are perfect for their roles as the dastardly Thenardiers – I prefer their comeuppance here than in the books, where Marius pays the Monsieur to go away (and the Madame perishes in jail).
Eponine was my favourite character in the book (though I forgot she died, and indeed lured Marius to near-death). Samantha Barks was excellent, though perhaps less emaciated than I expected. Her role is expanded in the movie, and her being friendzoned by Marius more poignant. Apparently a large proportion of Les Mis fans are teenage girls who sympathise with Eponine…
As in the book, Cosette and Marius were both pretty bland. I had forgotten the fate of the revolutionaries, so I was surprised when it happened. Russell Crowe wasn’t great as Javert – he was stonefaced the entire time and didn’t really communicate the man’s fanaticism, except for when he admits to Valjean that he is from the lower classes too.
Anyway, I enjoyed the pretty damn stark view of life in 19th century France, and the nasty and misguided people through society. The music was great, and though the opening scene seemed too theatrical, the movie quickly found its feet.