Les Misérables is the epitome of everything I hate about the musical genre, chiefly being how it takes twice as long to say half as much in a wholly ridiculous and unconvincing fashion. The constant singing and bombast rob the story of whatever genuine emotion or drama it was striving after. It’s mind-numbingly boring while being wildly disjointed. It embodies poor and lackluster filmmaking, plain and simple.
I knew next to nothing about the Les Mis story going in, and believe it or not, I was more or less on board for the first 40 minutes or so. I love Hugh Jackman and felt he got things off to a solid start. Anne Hathaway was great as well, although I felt her now almost guaranteed-an-Oscar performance did not quite live up to the hype. But then Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are introduced as zany, slapstick characters, which feels like it’s directly culled from their roles in the superior Sweeney Todd but feels woefully out of place in this movie. It’s all downhill from there.
And it goes on. And on. And on. With no more Hathaway, and Jackman not as convincing as he was in the beginning, things unravel disastrously. Several awkward time jumps take place, new characters are introduced, some pointless and never explained revolution occurs, but by that time I’ve become so numb to the whole thing I just want it to end. Russell Crowe doesn’t do anyone any favors either, showing how he’s a shell of his prime years by being locked into the same grim expression the entire time, no matter the scene.
Now, I will applaud director Tom Hooper for utilizing live singing. I’ve always been a big proponent for films doing this more often, never understanding why they don’t, and I think it pays off. It certainly works better than some of his other creative choices and shot selections. I will also applaud the production design and costume work, which sets a grimy and realistic tone, even if the singing and more ridiculous plot points immediately takes you back out again.
Les Mis is one of the most apathetic experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. I’m sure the original Victor Hugo book is good, because there are some promising thematic elements at play, but the manner in which the deluge of operatic singing is portrayed and how repetitive the storytelling becomes wore me down to no end. I was as thankful as can be when it was over.