The Philippines, as some of you may know, has an annual film fest designed to showcase the works of the local movie industry. This means that every year there are two weeks dedicated solely to local films. This is a good idea, since it helps revitalize the ailing Filipino movie business, but that also means that a lot of Hollywood films get pushed back to make way for these local productions.
So Les Misérables, which should have screened in the country on the 25th of December, did not show until the 16th of January. This meant that a lot of local Les Mis fans were writhing in agony for almost a month while their counterparts abroad got to enjoy the movie musical. This resulted in countless Filipinos scouring the Internet for good copies of the movie, which may or may not be something I condone.
So how did I manage to livetweet the movie? Well, there are two options. One, I may or may not have had my phone out while watching the movie in the cinema and was tweeting away during the whole thing. Or two, I may or may not have gotten a very clear copy of a DVD screener floating around the Internet even before the film showed in the country. Cue coin toss.
So here goes the livetweeting.
Well, to start, I have never watched a Les Misérables trailer until a few days ago. And when I saw it, I wasn’t happy. To say that I was thoroughly disappointed might be too harsh, but still. On the other hand, this observation might have been a bit biased because right before I watched the trailer, I just finished re-watching the 10th Anniversary Les Misérables Concert, which is the most beautiful thing on the planet. Understandably then, I tweeted this:
But a few days after that, I finally got to watch the movie itself and man, was I blown away. Just from the first scene, with the prisoners pulling that ship into port (why were they doing that anyway?), chills started running up and down my spine. And dude, Hugh Jackman was awesome. And Russell Crowe wasn’t as bad as I thought. During their exchange in ‘Look Down‘, there was chemistry between Jackman’s Valjean and Crowe’s Javert, and I liked every minute of it.
There is a possibility that this post might go from what I was hoping is a movie review to philosophical masturbation cum existential crisis. I really like the songs in the musical because it makes you think, unlike some of the other musicals you see cropping up today. Throughout the two and a half hours of the movie, you can clearly see Jean Valjean’s transformation, and Hugh Jackman’s acting really brought Valjean to life.
And with this particular line, you can just feel how much Valjean is being torn apart by his inner demons and his doubts. He’s a good man deep inside, but he’s also come to hate the very institution that enslaved him for nineteen years and is now keeping him from getting a good job and being treated like a normal person. If you were in his shoes, what would you do?
In Valjean’s case, he breaks parole and disappears, only to reappear later as the mayor of a small town, owner of a factory, and master to hundreds of workers. And in one of his factories, we see Fantine who is a musical number away from losing a job and getting thrown out into the street.
I know why the foreman wanted her out–she didn’t want to sleep with him. But why did the other workers want her out? Were they jealous because hot damn Anne Hathaway is much much prettier than any of them? So what if she had a kid living with an innkeeper? I just don’t understand.
UPDATE: I got a response to that tweet above from an awesome friend. Thanks, man!
So now-jobless Fantine walks around in a daze, desperately trying to think of a way to send money to the Thenardiers and her daughter, and wanders into the town’s red-light district. Here, she tries to sell a lock of Cosette’s hair and she gets offered four francs for it and she says no. Then some old hag offers to giver ten francs for ALL THE HAIR ON HER HEAD and she says yes. What?
She also sells her teeth.
Still though, as you might have seen from the trailers, Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” was scary good. Fantine was only in the movie for the first forty minutes but she’s definitely one of the most memorable characters, and Anne Hathaway made her even more so. You can just feel the pain and the desperation in her voice while she wallows in the poverty and violence around her.
So Fantine has a fight with a dick customer, Javert comes, Valjean intervenes, and she is taken to the hospital. In between, Valjean has an existential crisis about who he is and who he truly represents in “Who Am I?/The Trial“. Again with the demons. I mean come on, what would you do? If you don’t say anything, an innocent man will rot in jail. If you do speak, you will go to jail and hundreds of workers will be jobless. In the end though, Valjean screams his prisoner number in the face of the court, “TWO-FOUR-SIX-OH-JUAAAAAAAN“.
Javert, finally sure that the mayor is his old nemesis, confronts him at the hospital right after Fantine dies. That death scene, by the way, was awesome. Anne Hathaway did a great job, complete with snot flowing freely from her nose. Anyway, Javert confronts Valjean and they have a brief musical number with a sword vs. broken log fight, until Javert disarms Valjean and Valjean runs away and escapes into the river.
So I checked Wikipedia, since I don’t remember much about the musical and the book, and I was right!
The movie then transitions to Cosette singing ‘Castle on a Cloud‘, which was awesome. (By now you should realize that it is only right to download the movie soundtrack.) Then the Thenardiers come along and, well, I was a bit disappointed. I mean, both Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are heavyweights but their version of “Master of the House” was a bit too slow and lazy for my taste, especially when compared to the 10th Anniversary version. Despite that though, both actors did well the rest of the film.
That haggling scene, as mentioned above, was awesome. It really was. Valjean finds Cosette in the woods and takes her back to the inn, where the Thenardiers are waiting. The rascally innkeepers try to steal from him like they always do with other customers, but what they didn’t know was that Valjean spent years at the bottom of the food chain too and was way too smart for them. Everyone did well in this scene, even little Cosette.
After that, to my surprise, Valjean started singing a song I did not recognize.
Up to this moment, the tone of the film was more desperate and sad than anything else and in the original musical, it continued on like that until the end. But, with “Suddenly“, a small nugget of hope started growing in the midst of all that darkness. Hugh Jackman did a great job with it too. You can just see in his eyes how hopeful he is that now he has Cosette, a family of sorts, someone to care and live for. It was beautiful.
But before Valjean can take Cosette home, Javert sees them and starts a chase. Both Valjean and Cosette escape and, understandably, Javert is angry. He vows to capture Valjean no matter how long it takes through a solo number, “Stars“, which was not at all as bad as I expected.
It was actually pretty good. And for people who say that Crowe’s singing was painful to hear, I didn’t see you complain when Pierce Brosnan was singing in Mamma Mia. Now that was bad. I think Russell Crowe tried his best and though it might not have been on par with everyone else in the film, it was not that bad. His singing voice gave Javert that silent and mysterious vibe and I think it helped the film.
And now, eight years later, Cosette is all grown up and the youth of Paris are starting to get restless under the new king. One of the youth’s revolutionary leaders, Marius, sees Cosette for the first time and falls in love, for some reason, while his super hot bestfriend just looks on in friendzoned jealousy.
For newcomers to the musical, Cosette is no one’s favorite character so it’s sad that Amanda Seyfried got that part. Still though, she brings a lot to Cosette, making it easier to understand why Marius fell in love with her so fast. Marius is also no one’s favorite character and if he wasn’t so good looking, no one would really care about him.
And Eponine is the character that every girl in the world feels she can relate with. Also, every guy in the world thinks that they know what she feels and just wants to hold her tight and tell her to forget about that ungrateful dick. And man, Samantha Barks is hot.
In other news, the whole Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried father-daughter thing works, primarily because of their height difference.
Going back to the would-be revolutionaries, I don’t think they really thought their actions through but I’m not here to judge the heroes of that iconic, albeit unsuccessful, revolution. Enjolras though. That dude is one big buzzkill. He’s too focused on his cause that he can’t even appreciate what kind of hell falling in love is, which is what Marius is going through. And I just can’t take him seriously because he looks a lot like a young TJ Thyne, who plays Hodgins in Bones.
Anyway, the revolutionaries’ favorite general dies and they use this as their rallying point to call the people of France to arms. “Do You Hear the People Sing?” wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, but it was still pretty stirring, especially when the students started climbing up Lamarque’s black carriage.
The students engage the French armed force, then run back to the ABC Cafe to set up a barricade. Apparently, they were hoping that other groups in the city will set up their own barricades. They find out later that only a few did, and they didn’t last long. Also, the barricade that these guys set up was embarrassingly small. My first thought was, “You mean to take on the entire goddamn French army with that?!”
And for those of you who loved Gavroche, you might be disappointed in the film since they cut out a lot of his scenes and only gave him like four lines of “Little People” to sing before Enjolras interrupts him. His death scene made up for everything though. Now that’s one tough little puppy.
Another death scene that just trampled on my heart was Eponine’s. For those who don’t know, Eponine saved Marius by jumping in front of a bullet for him (which further cements everyone’s hate for Marius). So Marius holds her tight and sings to her as she expires, and it was the saddest thing you will ever see.
She was in love with Marius up to the very end, and the lines of the song..oh my lawd it just broke my heart. Basically, she’s telling Marius that she feels no pain (despite the gaping bullet wound in her chest) because he’s with her, holding her in his arms, and that’s all she needed to know. Excuse me while I take out this something from my eye.
And when things started to look really bleak for the young revolutionaries, Marius began contemplating the fact that he might die that night. And he starts singing of Cosette. Which is a little bit annoying.
Valjean hears him singing and realizes that this kid is in love with his Cosette and he has to keep him alive for everybody’s sake. So he sings a prayer to the Lord with “Bring Him Home“, and to say that Hugh Jackman did a good job with it would be an understatement.
For those of you who do not know Colm Wilkinson, he is this singing god who was born to play Jean Valjean. He was in the 10th Anniversary Concert and his version of “Bring Him Home” never fails to bring tears to my eyes, and I think Hugh Jackman did that song proud. Both their versions were hauntingly beautiful.
UPDATE: Apparently, Colm Wilkinson played the bishop in the movie and served as the definitive bridge between the movie and the musical. I didn’t notice him at first but I thought the bishop really looked familiar.
Going back to the movie’s Bring Him Home, if you looked closely, there were a lot of godly references during that whole scene. Like that All-Seeing Eye in the background.
So everybody died (I especially liked how they killed Enjolras in the movie–it was a tip of the hat to the way he died in the original musical), but Valjean and an unconscious and wounded Marius escape through the sewers. When Javert arrived to inspect the area, the streets were just flowing with blood, bringing to life the line, “The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!”
And when he saw the dead bodies of the revolutionaries lined up including young Gavroche, you can see how good an actor Russell Crowe is. He got that there-are-demons-inside-me-fighting-for-dominance look down pat, and it was awesome.
So Javert pursues Valjean through the sewers but, when he finally corners him, lets him go, maybe because Valjean spared his life after Javert was caught spying by the revolutionaries just the night before. This triggered an existential crisis within Javert, which resulted in him jumping from a bridge and straight into a stone barrier (you can hear his bones break!) and down into the river. Ouch.
And this tweet was inspired by this post, which has been going around for weeks now:
So anyway, Valjean escapes, Marius lives, Cosette and Marius get engaged. Right before the kids get married, Valjean disappears because he knows the kids will be disgraced if anyone found out about his criminal past. He is next seen dying in a convent somewhere. And it was one of the most awesome death scenes I have ever seen.
Like in the musical, Fantine fetches the soul of the dying Valjean and tells him that everything will be alright, but not before Marius and Cosette burst into the convent and say goodbye to their patriarch. Valjean’s soul walks out of the convent to the arms of his dear friend, the bishop who saved his life, and joins in the final chorus of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” with everyone else who died. And this time, they have a proper barricade.
Final Verdict: 9/10
I think what really set this movie apart from all the other movie musicals out there is the director’s idea to make the actors sing live instead of lip-synching through everything. It made the movie much more immediate and relatable. Never have I seen songs performed in a movie musical with so much emotion. You can hear the actors’ voices break, you can hear the anger and the agony and the desperation and the hope. I think this will be the start of a new trend in this genre, and I am loving it.