The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

January 9, 2013

‘Les Miserables’: A musical treat?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 — I should begin by stating that I have seen “Les Mis” multiple times on the stage. I think when one is familiar with the source material, whether it is a book, a stage play or whatever, this affects how one views a film. In my case, I know the story of Jean Valjean backwards, forwards and sideways.  

It is a wonderful story. A man seeks to redeem his life after a crime (albeit a small crime), a term in prison and a bit of grace from a bishop. And that is the heart of the story, the balance of law versus grace. The Christian faith has always struggled with finding that balance. Most people tend to lean one direction or the other. Our current national political situation is proof of this. “Les Miserables,” as well as any story, demonstrates the tragedy that can occur when legalism trumps grace. The character Javert is a man who seeks justice always, even when perhaps grace would provide the more just alternative.  

But I do not write today to praise Victor Hugo’s story. It is a fine one filled with meaning. However, I am writing to critique the new film version.

First, it is the best film adaptation of “Les Mis” that I have ever seen. I have seen quite a few, none of which are musicals except the new version. The most recent one starred Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. That version lacked passion completely.

This new version, with all the music and spectacle has a great deal of passion and emotion. Hugh Jackman gives it his all as Jean Valjean. Russell Crowe, perhaps the weakest singer in the cast, captures the emotional struggle of Javert, seeking to do the right thing as the law defines it but ultimately questioning his own decisions.  

Then there is Anne Hathaway as Fantine (I like the character of Fantine so much I named a cat after her 15 years ago. She has since passed but I still have Fantine’s granddaughter who is a wonderful calico cat).

Hathaway is by far the best thing about this version of “Les Mis.” When she cries, the audience cries with her. And when she sings, the audience cries ever more. She is currently the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress. Some say her screen time is too short, but Beatrice Straight had one good scene in “Network” and Judi Dench was on screen about eight minutes in “Shakespeare in Love” and they both won Oscars for their films respectively. Hathaway could too, and I personally hope this is her year.

There is more to like about “Les Mis.” The music, of course, is phenomenal, though I did not find the one new song, “Suddenly,” (which was not in the stage production) to be overly impressive. The sets and costumes are good, but there have been a lot of spectacular productions this year and nothing really singles out this film. It is a well-made entertaining spectacle.  

Which brings me back to my opening remarks. I know this story. I know the stage musical. I knew what was going to happen in the movie, almost every line, note and action. For me, the joy of discovery really did not exist as I watched the film. My greatest surprise was actually how much I was touched by Hathaway’s one great scene.

So, “Les Miserables” is not one of my favorite films of 2012. It will probably get a Best Picture Nomination. It has been getting quite a bit of “awards attention.” And it is a good film just not a great one.  

However, if you are one of the ones who has never experienced the story of Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine and Cosette, I urge you to go. Your introduction to this story may be one of the best experiences you have had at the cinema in quite a while.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 11, 2014

  • Is a paleo vegetarian diet possible?

    Research shows most people can follow a regimented eating plan for a short time. That's not the challenge. The challenge is finding a healthful eating plan you can follow day after day and achieve your long-term health goals. At this point, it doesn't appear that the paleo eating plan meets these objectives for most people.

    April 10, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 10, 2014

  • Hospice of Stanly County should be the one we support

    Regarding your recent article about Community Hospice relocating its offices from one location in Troy to another, let me point out a few things.

    April 10, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content