Considering how much I’ve been writing about it over the last couple weeks and that I appear to have nothing to say about anything else, you might be thinking Les Miserables is my favorite movie of the past year. Past year? Of all time.
Not even close, actually. I did like it very much. But it comes in on my hit parade behind Argo, Looper, Skyfall, Lincoln, The Hobbit, and The Avengers. I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet and it’s probably only embarrassment that keeps me from facing truth that I might have enjoyed The Three Stooges more. But it’s ahead of two other movies I also liked a lot, Anna Karenina and Hyde Park on Hudson. It worked its way into a special place in my heart and so I’m kind of defensive of it and when I’ve read comments online that men don’t like it, that they have to be dragged to it, and only sit through it for the sake of their wives and girlfriends, I’ve gotten riled. And, boiled down, the objection usually isn’t to the movie but to musicals in general. Men, real men, don’t like musicals. This notion made me mad enough that I started to write a post about it until I remembered.
I don’t like musicals.
I like some musicals.
The really funny ones.
Les Miserables is not funny.
I don’t have a reasoned aesthetic objection to musicals. They just annoy me. Even the ones filled with great songs.
I don’t like them onstage. And I really don’t like them on film.
Go ahead. Name a movie musical that was also a great movie.
Singin’ in the Rain.
Both conceived as movies.
And you can make the case that Singin’ in the Rain is a dance movie. And Mary Poppins is a live-action cartoon.
Very few of the musicals I like have made even marginally good movies. 1776, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Some I’ve liked have been turned into terrible movies. Guys and Dolls, Hello, Dolly!, Camelot.
What I’m getting at is not that I shouldn’t have liked Les Miserables but that i shouldn’t have gone at all.
And I wouldn’t have if I didn’t love the book---Hugo’s novel, not the musical’s script and lyrics---and if the trailers hadn’t featured images that have come to be iconic in my imagination. I went for the story not for the singing.
But the same thing happened that always happens, and it’s what really annoys me about musicals. Whenever I see a musical, on stage or on screen, whether it’s a stellar professional production, an admirably workman-like college production, or an embarrassingly terrible community theater production, I get caught up.
No matter how determinedly cynical and detached I am going in, on my way out I’m whistling all the tunes and wishing life was like a musical.
People complaining about Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway’s less than Broadway-caliber singing and Hugh Jackman’s subdued performance as Jean Valjean (at least in the early going) have a point, but they’re missing that the younger stars, Aaron Tveit, Eddie Redmayne, and especially Samantha Barks can sing and that the three of them along with Crowe, Hathaway, and Jackman are part of an ensemble that together turns out to be the vocal star of the movie.
I can’t imagine how by the finale anyone can not be caught up and not leave the theater singing this. (Click on the image.)