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5 things you should know before seeing Les Miserables, so you are Less Miserable…

The made-for-screen rendition of Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway is still making headlines, and probably will all the way to Oscar time.

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People have strong judgements- they loved it or they hated it, which is a perfect concoction for spin and speculation. Everyone has an opinion, and is apparently voicing it. I can’t seem to go anywhere without hearing/seeing people sound off. From Facebook to Twitter, from online reviews to coffee shop conversations- the hills are alive with the buzz.

Les Mis, for those of you who have been living on another planet, is based on a book by Victor Hugo. It became the longest running broadway show in history. It is now making the rounds in the touring circuit and in small-town school adaptations across the nation.

It’s a story of a chap named Jean Valjean, and it takes place in revolutionary France. We meet him in the opening curtain – a prisoner, on the last day before his parole.

Epic really describes this scene! Something that lacked in the Broadway version, was the ability to show the sheer massive-ness of the setting. In the film, we clearly see this while the prisoners are in a shipyard, lugging an enormous vessel into drydock.

We don’t even learn Jean’s name until first learning his number- 24601- which sets the tone perfectly. This man thinks he has no future. He is, and will forever be, known only by his number- he is a man marked by his past. Wherever he may go in life, he must wear that number as his badge. All for stealing a loaf of bread. The allegorical and messianic story that unfolds is beautiful, and deep, and profound, and… long.

I knew swoonworthy Hugh Jackman (*sigh) was a trained stage actor, so I was expecting him to be great- and he was!

I went in expecting to be completely BUGGED by Anne Hathaway, and I was… wrong! She did an impeccable job and from my humble perspective, earned some major acting cred. It required ugly beauty, and I wasn’t sure she could pull it off. She did, and then some. In an interview I read, I learned and loved that she gained inspiration from researching women in the sex slavery trade. She stated that she wasn’t acting, she was honoring the real pain that exists in the world through this injustice. It was heartbreakingly raw and believable.

The musical scenes in this movie were filmed LIVE, and in ONE TAKE: with reportedly no cuts, or edits or splicing. For those of you with no knowledge of film production, take my word for it; this is a REALLY BIG DEAL, and almost impossible. The actors really have to know how to, well… act. There’s no where to hide. Many of the scenes were extreme close-ups where you felt like you were invading their personal space, or maybe the other way around.

Most of the actors delivered. However, Russell Crowe I imagine, has quickly become the butt of many a joke. “I dreamed a dream (that Russell would stop singing…)” -*thx for that one, Joy…- or,  “I know a place where no one (has to listen to Russell sing…)” Spoiler alert: (When his character Javert commits suicide, I was secretly relieved).

This movie was riddled with A-listers and everyone else is talking about them, but the supporting actors were some of my favorites. For instance, the beautiful no-name actress that plays Eponine, Samantha Barks (On My Own), actually beat out Taylor Swift for the role – thank God, ‘cos that would never ever ever… have come together (get it? sry, I digress). Samantha’s voice was flawless and her role was memorable. She’s seen below with other scene-stealer (slash) hottie Eddie Redmayne who plays the love interest of adult Cosette and sings Empty Chairs at Empty Tables mournfully – his voice is like buttah. You may remember him from The Other Boleyn Girl.

The wee Isabelle Allen who delivers my personal favorite song of the soundtrack (Castle on a Cloud) was sweet enough to bring tears to any eye. Weeks before being cast as young Cosset, she was performing in her school play in the role of a boy. Can you say “major break?”

Think you’re up for it?

Here are a 5 things things you should know before seeing Les Miserables, so you are Less Miserable…

1. It is 3 hours long. If you know that going in, you will settle in, and may not be put off by the fact that you will be there a. long. time.

2. The ENTIRE thing is in song. There are probably less than 100 words of spoken dialogue. It is not a “musical” like that of Moulin Rouge that is half and half. I wonder why it is classified as a musical and not an opera?

3. Even though it is on film, the story goes at the pace of a stage production. Meaning, it can feel slow at times, in this era of action-packed films. Especially during the songs that are one long inner dialogue. And they abound.

4. It’s OK to laugh. There are some pretty funny parts in this film, most of them delivered by the characters played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. She is scary-good at playing hilariously ‘wicked.’ I think people in the theater didn’t know if they were allowed to laugh or not. Please do. It breaks up the intense moments. (Master of the House)

5. Bring tissues. You might (and probably will) cry if you make it through the film all the way to the emotional and creative crescendo at the end.


Did you see Les Mis? What did you think? Share your spin, below…