Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Les Miserables

Third in my alphabetically ordered set of holiday movies is this incredibly hyped musical.  I'd seen various trailers for it in theaters for months, and even though I'm one of the six theater-going Americans who's never been to this play, I was looking forward to the movie.  The cast was great, the Oscar buzz was louder than a mosquito swarm in a Florida swamp on a hot night, and I was quite intrigued by director Tom Hooper's use of mics on the actors to capture them singing as they were acting.  (The normal practice is to record the songs ahead of time and have the actors lip-sync them during filming.)  So, I walked into the theater ready to love this movie.

Almost three hours later, I left a bit sad that I didn't. 

Oh, I had a good enough time; I just never cared all that much about anyone or anything in the film.  It was like having a good friend set you up on a date with a nice, attractive person with whom you have absolutely zero chemistry; the evening isn't a waste, and you have a pleasant time, but you leave with the knowledge that you would have been better off staying at home and reading a good book. 

It's not that the movie didn't try to make me care.  Grand, powerful, moving events occurred at every turn.  Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne worked their asses--and vocal cords and, in Hathaway's case, body weight and hair--off making sure we know that This Is Serious, Weighty, Dramatic Business, that People Are Suffering, and that We Must Care. 

I just couldn't. 

I wanted to, I really did.  What happened, for example, to Anne Hathaway, was so horrific, so relentlessly brutal, and so well-acted that my heart was ready to break for her. 

Unfortunately, it all happened at light speed, so very quickly that before I could come to terms with one horror, the next was already well along.  Like food spiced so very hot that all you can taste is the burn of the spices, the horrors here piled on so quickly and so brutally that they lost their power to do more than numb me. 

I understand that Hooper almost certainly felt the pace was necessary because Les Mes is essentially an opera with a fixed set of songs, so there's no way to slow the film. 

I don't care.  I still wanted more--a rare thing to say about a movie this long.  Break it into two films, slow it down with dialog or more songs or whatever, and make a movie--or a pair of them--that gives us time to come to care deeply for all the characters, to care so much that their plights tear open our hearts and make us weep.  That's what I wanted from Les Miserables

Now, I have to admit that I was in the minority in our group; most people cared more about the characters than I did.  Also, I actually enjoyed the film well enough, and I can recommend it if you're a fan of the play or in the mood for some good, old-fashioned French suffering. 

I just wish I had cared more. 


Michelle said...

I'm with you. I wanted so much to like it, but found that all I was wishing for was that Hugh Jackman would turn into Wolverine and Russell Crowe the Gladiator and they would duke it out.

Mark said...

Wolverine would kick his ass, but it would have been fun for the few seconds it lasted.


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