I love the Oscars. I know, usually they choose the conventional choice, and although the “Best Picture” of the year is rarely the actual best picture, it’s never terrible. Well, I have a fight to pick with the Academy this year. When “Les Miserables” was nominated this year for eight awards, I cried blasphemy. This was not unexpected (It was directed by Oscar favorite Tom Hooper, and has a huge, prestigious cast), but awful all the same. The film was loud, bloated, messy, and ugly.
Now, it’s clear from the moment you begin watching the film, with its sweeping shot of a ship pulled by hundreds of prisoners, that this film is big. The other thing you notice is that while you stare at that big ship, you don’t feel anything. There’s no desire to give yourself over to the film, let it sweep you away, mainly because in the process of making “Les Mis” huge, Tom Hooper has forgotten to make the film mean anything. The large musical numbers carry no grandeur, the love stories aren’t touching or romantic, the deaths meaningless. The entire film ends up being just plain unpleasant. It’s all big and shameless, with every actor crying and singing over countless dead bodies. The camera work is filled with relentless close-ups, just so you can see just how hard the actors are pursuing awards.
“Les Miserables” centers around Jean Valjean, a French prisoner released after nineteen years. After he’s released, a preacher takes him in. Jean then steals from him, but instead of punishing him, the preacher gives Jean a chance to redeem himself. Eventually, he becomes the mayor of a town, and becomes a good man. The film then dissolves into a mess, with characters floating in and out without much purpose except to be killed.
Oh, yeah. All but one or two characters dies at some point in the film. Not that it really matters, since you won’t really like any of them. The actors’ performances mostly fall flat. Literally. Every single song is out of tune and fragile, like a five year-old singing along to the radio. To be fair, Anne Hathaway does a pretty good job with “I Dreamed a Dream,” and Hugh Jackman shouldn’t be accused of not trying, but mostly, the filmmakers have performed the unspeakable act of finding actors with the most Oscar potential instead of actual, um, singing ability. Just listen to Russell Crowe belt out “Javert’s Suicide,” and I swear, you’ll think you’re hearing Jabba the Hut attempt to sing.
There will be people who love the film, saying that it’s a beautiful epic. I think they’re just confusing the musical and the movie. The musical “Les Miserables” is incredible, and a great introduction into musical theater. For me, though, a movie musical should not just be based on the quality of its source material, but the way it is performed. And the adaptation plays like the worst elementary-school level productions of “Les Mis” I’ve ever seen.
Alright, I know I’ve been pretty harsh on this film, but I want you to know that my hatred of “Les Mis” is not entirely the film’s fault. I’m just as angry with the Oscars for actually nominating this piece of crap. Did you actually watch the film, or did you just latch onto the film’s desperately obvious Oscar campaign?