OK, about to turn in my man card for a moment. As I’ve bragged to anyone who would listen, I’ve seen probably 3,000 movies in my life. I’ve written about movies for guys who like movies, but I’d like to write about a movie right now that was the most emotional, powerful, and epic movie I’ve ever seen.
I was first introduced to Les Miserables in high school when we did a medley in band. I was voted most musical in HS, meaning I had some talent, but also meaning I don’t think I had a real date either. So, I had a lot of spare time, and I found a connection with music that was very private and personal. For me, music evokes emotions, and is almost like your own personal time capsule. Some music reminds me of the early 90’s and driving my blue camaro, some reminds me of the countless thousands of hours I’d play chess with my father, and other reminds me of unrequited love when I was young and naïve to how the world works. For me, Les Mis evokes a form of purity of the soul, that really doesn’t transform me to any particular time or place, but provides a feeling of vulnerability to music that touches the soul at the very abyss of human emotion.
In college, a friend introduced me to the original Broadway recording. This two CD set is still owned by me today, and is the gold standard to any musical ever created. It won countless awards and while I’m no Broadway expert, nothing I have heard since has even come close to it. Maybe a song or two from Phantom, maybe one from Rent, but as a whole, it stands alone atop a mountain of mountains.
I was extremely disappointed by the Liam Neeson movie, which really didn’t even introduce Eponine at all, and without music, lacked a lot of punch. I just saw Taken 2 last night, and I cannot believe Liam’s transformation into Obi Wan’s mentor, Batman’s mentor, and total badass Brian Mills in the Taken franchise. At first I was excited to see this movie, but as time goes on, I think of it more and more as an extreme disappointment.
Fast forward to a few months ago. When a friend posted a preview of the upcoming Les Mis musical, I watched the actors describe what it was like to do a live singing movie. I felt that it was authentic and genuine, and as an artistic expression of the movie, felt it to be a very difficult feat to accomplish. I was excited about the prospects of this movie, but I feared the cast that they hired didn’t have the talent to pull it off. I’m a fan of the actors involved – mostly Russell Crowe from “Gladiator” and “a Beautiful Mind”, and Jackman from Wolverine fame. The youtube clip of this showed a lot of promise, and there was hesitation on my part wondering if I had mentally overhyped this movie to a level where it could never live up to my expectations.
Thank God I was wrong. I feel at this point, that it was the most epic, beautiful, moving movie of all time. The “overhype” I was concerned about ended within minutes of the opening of the film. You could hear a pin drop, it was that intense. Crowe seemed to not necessarily possess any form of vibrato in his voice, but Jackman carried the movie with the proverbial weight of the log on his back – and did it with apparent ease. A few more minutes into the film revealed the talented, but typecast, Anne Hathaway as Fantine performing “I dreamed a dream” as an artist of the 21st century. Her 4 minutes of the song will go down as the most emotional 4 minutes ever shot by a camera. There were people openly weeping in the theatre I was in, and many times throughout the movie you could hear people sniffling – and not from the plague going around. Jackman continued to be a strong protagonist, projecting a hardened, yet changed man devoted to being of service to others. He more or less adopts Cossette and moves to Paris where he hides her for years trying to evade Javier. Eventually, his past catches up to him, as well all know, but during this sequence, you see Borat giving a pretty damn good performance as Thenardier while singing “Master of the House” with a French accent. I wasn’t overly impressed by the choice of Marius, and as the movie went on, it felt that Russell Crowe was the weakest singer of the entire cast. However, I don’t feel this lessened the quality of the movie, however, it may have ended Crowe’s Broadway aspirations. Jackman and Hathaway deserve Oscars, and just about anyone associated with the movie should win Oscars as well.
At the end of the day, this movie ranks up there with anything ever made. It’s holding at an 8.1 right now on IMDB, but I think this rating was slightly lowered by a teenage crowd that likes Snooky and Twighlight. As this movie ends its run in the theatres and the die-hard rental crowd starts renting it, the number will start creeping up even higher. I also bought the music from iTunes for the movie. Unfortunately, the true music doesn’t match up to the Broadway recordings. However, when that music is put into the context of the movie, it becomes a catalyst for emotion like I’ve never seen before in a movie.