SparkNotes Blog

Josh & Emma Discuss Les Misérables (Spoiler Alert: They Didn’t Like It.)

Josh: So: Les Mizrahi.
Emma: ok, some context: I LOVE this musical.

I grew up listening to the soundtrack compulsively
“Bring Him Home” reliably makes me have a nervous breakdown
Josh: I grew up as a musical theatre nerd
but, I was that musical theatre nerd that was like “yeah, Les Miz is an IMPORTANT musical… but it isn’t a GOOD musical.”
I was all about Sondheim
I went through a short Les Miz phase
I won’t lie
but moved quickly to Sweeney Todd
Emma: i read you
I knew it was cheesy and not musically sophisticated even as a 7th grader
i have good taste, after all
Josh: of course
Emma: but i still loved it. Oh, and I should mention that i starred in ABRHS’s 1997 production of “Oklahoma!” You’ve probably heard of it.
Josh: Oh, the ABRHS Oklahoma?!
Wow. Good work.
Emma: yeah, that’s the one. thanks!!
So we’ve established that we’re both giant musical theater dorks
Josh: HUGE
Emma: which brings us to Les Mis, the 2013 film version.
What was your overall impression of the movie?
Josh: It didn’t work.
I kept thinking “I wish Steven Spielberg had directed this.”
I think he would have done a better job at NOT HAVING EVERY SHOT BE A CLOSE UP
and I feel like the epic-ness of it was not so epic. There were these iconic moments that were ruined because the camera was either too close
was this supposed to be Saving Private Ryan?!
get a tripod, dude!
Or a steadycam?
Emma: i don’t think he knows about tripods
i don’t think he knows much about directing
Josh: The technology is available
Instead, they spent the budget on bad teeth and open wounds
Emma: and face warts
Josh: LOTS
Emma: so many closeups of face warts
Josh: I also forgot how explain-y the song lyrics are
Emma: “I’m walking over here now, and I’m going to pick up this candlestick. Look! I just picked it uuuuupppppp”
Josh: “la la la there was a bad king/now there’s a new king who’s also bad”
that’s almost verbatim a lyric
“Red is a color that we like/Black is a color that is bad…”
Emma: speaking of the singing…
Josh: yikes
Emma: the vocal performances were not great.
in fact, most of them were embarrassing
the live performances did provide emotional immediacy
that was moving
but you don’t want to make the audience wince and cringe and think, “Oh God, is she going to hit that note?”
Josh: yeah
Emma: here’s a question: if you’re going to go with painful authenticity in the vocal performances, why make incredibly stagey sets?
I felt like I was watching a badly-filmed stage version of the musical, as opposed to a movie
Josh: That was part of the non-epic problem
Also, I’ll probably go on record as the only person who didn’t care for Anne’s performance
are you trying to tell me you didn’t love her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream?
Josh: eh
She was acting SO HARD
Emma: followup question: are you a monster?
Josh: yes
Emma: but how about when she sang “he took my childhood in his stride” SO angrily??
Josh: her fault
Emma: pardon?
Josh: she dated a French dude
Emma: ….
fine, you were unmoved, I think Anne deserves the Oscar she’s definitely going to win
Josh: oh she’ll win
Emma: let’s move on to Eponine
Josh: I think what we learned from Eponine is that in order to get the man you must be anorexic and take a musket blow to the chest
I actually liked Eddie and the blonde girl the best
Emma: WHAT?!?
Josh: they had the most thankless roles
and I thought they did as little as they had to
Emma: you preferred Amanda to Anne?!?
Josh: Maybe I was just tired from watching people act so hard
Emma: I found Eddie Redmayne’s to be the only emotionally plausible performance
I totally believed that he was desperately in love during that absurd garden scene
Josh: yes
bought it
he’s good
and excellent cheekbones
Emma: big time
he’s really good
amanda, though—
i felt she was just keeping her head down and trying to get through this thing
also, couldn’t they have let her wear a LITTLE eyeliner?
like just some brown pencil?
Josh: Maybe they were like “her eyes are big already…”
Emma: :/
no one looks good in a bonnet and no eyeliner
Josh: I always wear eyeliner when I wear a bonnet
Emma: it’s sort of fashion 101
and poor Hugh Jackman
he’s such a gifted musical theater actor, and I did love most of his performance
but his “Bring Him Home” was an absolute disgrace
Josh: they did NOTHING with that song
i felt like all of his songs were him pacing through rooms
with the camera up in his grill
Emma: all up in his nostrils
Josh: Lot of nostril acting in this piece
and a LOT of breath-acting
Emma: coughing
Josh: dying
And what about the way everyone was British
in France
even the American actors
EXCEPT for Thenardier, but only when he’s trying to be “fancy.”
That made NO sense
Emma: that didn’t bother me!
Josh: REALLY?!
I was like “Wait, Anne Hathaway, why are you British now?”
Emma: she wasn’t doing a british accent!
Josh: It’s was British-esque
Here’s my biggest problem with the whole thing, though
Is Javert the ONLY police officer in France?!
How is he always there?
And everyone knows him
like “oh, there goes Javert, the only police officer in France.”
And then he has no problem sneaking behind the barricade
and it’s only the KID that recognizes him?!
Emma: oh, how I hated that freaking barricade
it looked like something my high school drama department could have constructed
and the Epcot Center-style charming village street behind it…shudder
Josh: That was the stageiest mcstagerton set EVER
Emma: also, I never knew where anyone was in space
you know the part when Valjean is running away from Javert with Cosette in his arms?
i was like OK, now he has a rope—where did he get that rope?
Josh: Yeah
suddenly he’s 007
Emma: now they’ve scaled the wall with the rope, I guess? but we didn’t see it!
okay, now they’ve dropped the rope and are running…somewhere….wait, where’s Javert?
it was just so badly filmed and edited
Josh: It’s the musical version of Taken!
Oh, and Javert’s just hanging out on top of a church
singing about a dude who stole some bread 20 years ago
Emma: and singing it so badly 🙁
Josh: oof
Emma: I felt so sorry for Russell Crowe
Josh: Stars was a low point.
which is sad because its my fave song
That and when Javert jumps are my two fave parts of the musical
Emma: oh, you’re one of THOSE people
“I love Stars! Look at me, I’m going with STARS instead of I Dreamed a Dream! I’m SO original!”
Josh: Oh right
“Bring Him Home makes me cry… look at me, I’m like EVERY OTHER PERSON EVER.”
Emma: I’m happy to admit it!
what really irritated me about this film was all the small, dumb moments
for example, when Eponine’s dying, she’s soaking wet, presumably because it’s raining
but Eddie is right next to her, dry as a bone
it yanks you right out of the scene
Josh: And the rain was not penetrating the coarse weirdness of her wig either
it was, like, beading up on her hair
Emma: YES
you know what else i hated?
Josh: oh lord
that butterfly
that. butterfly.
Emma: as if the garden scene wasn’t bad enough already
along comes the worst CGId butterfly in film history
I decided to pretend i hadn’t seen it
Josh: but then it came back!
Emma: and settled on the fence, in between Amanda and Eddie’s faces, with its wings a-flappin’
I question Hooper’s taste levels
that moment when someone dies (Eponine, maybe?) and he cuts away to a single tear running down the urchin’s face?
Josh: lots of single tear moments
Emma: if you’re doing single tear moments, something has gone horribly wrong with your film
Josh: but all that being said?
I still cried my nachos out at the end
with all the dead people singing
on that barricade that didn’t exist in the movie
it was a completely different barricade
but that didn’t matter
dead people singing… totally got me
Emma: oh, yeah, i sobbed through the entire thing
the dead people singing left me cold, but the rest…
Josh: I lost ’em when I saw the priest
Emma: who originated the role of Valjean, by the way!
Josh: I KNOW
Emma: (snorts, adjusts stage makeup)
Josh: who are you talking to
Ben Nye stage makeup
We are nerds
Emma: We aaaarreeee neeeeerrrrrrrdsssssss (chin quivering, straining to hit high D)

What do you think, Sparklers? Is this heresy? Does anyone agree with Emma and Josh? What were your favorite/least favorite parts of the movie?