X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Cinema

The monotony of Les Misérables

12 January 2013

9:00 AM

12 January 2013

9:00 AM

Les Misérables

Nationwide, 12A

Les Misérables is one of the longest-running, most popular stage musicals in history, having been seen by 60 million people in 42 countries — sit on that, Cats! — and although I can’t comment on the live show, as I’ve never seen it, I can tell you this film, which comes in at around 140 hours, boils down to a lot of fuss and singing (of the jaw-straining variety) about a very minor parole offence. I’m telling you, if I’d ever Dreamed a Dream, whether In Time Gone By or In My Local Starbucks, that so many jaws would strain so much for so little, I’d feel completely satisfied, but otherwise? I’m not so sure.

Directed by Tom Hooper, with a stellar, A-list cast — sit on that, all other casts! — and based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, which runs to a billion pages or something, this opens with Jean Valjean (‘No,’ says his mother, ‘I did not consider naming him Sue Valsue’) being released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Valjean is played by Hugh Jackman, whose straining jaw makes Pierce Brosnan’s straining jaw in Mamma Mia! look almost relaxed. Anyway, upon his release, the prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe), orders him to carry papers identifying him as a dangerous person and orders him to report to parole officers regularly. However, having robbed a bishop, who forgives him, Valjean breaks parole and devotes himself to good, but Javert is determined to pursue him, although we are never told why. Does he have nothing better to do? Does he have any other work, even? Valjean’s already served 19 years, for heaven’s sake! Seriously, this is a two hour and 40 minute musical about the world’s most minor parole offence. Imagine if Valjean had stolen a loaf and a bun. We’d still all be in the cinema. I’d have grown a beard. At my age, this is a genuine worry.

The main thrust is Valjean vs Javert, the thin one from Wolverine vs the fatter one from Gladiator, although there are other characters, including Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a single mother who is forced to become a prostitute. (Women don’t come out of this particularly well, and generally expire in the arms of some man.) Still, Hathaway is the business. She can really sing. Her ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ with a blotched face and red eyes and spittle in the corners of her mouth and filmed as if she were Sinéad O’Connor doing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ is wonderful. The best thing in this film by miles. Pity she expires in a man’s arms early on. (SPOILER ALERT…oops, too late.)

[Alt-Text]


Other characters include Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the orphan adopted by Valjean, who grows up and falls in love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), who is part of the group that sparks the 1832 Paris uprising. Nothing wrong with Cosette and Marius except that, between them, they don’t have an ounce of personality. Marius is also loved by Éponine (Samantha Barks), who expires in a man’s arms. I do rather like Eddie Redmayne, though. Just do. And he may be the only other one who can actually sing, too.

All the cast emote their heads off and sing their little hearts out live to camera (there is no dubbing) but there is something inert about the whole thing. It is visually repetitive. Hooper’s camera swoops from epic shot to facial close-up over and over and over. It is narratively repetitive. Javert only stops plodding after Valjean to sing about law and justice yet again. There is never any pause to build character or emotion and the music slurs together indefinably. Everything is sung, to the point where you want to stop it all and say, ‘Just talk, why don’t you?’ And everything is elemental. It’s love, betrayal, hate, fear, but never: ‘Oh, hello. How are you? Cup of tea?’ There is dark but no light, and no wit or humour at all. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen do their shtick as small-time swindlers but it all feels wearily familiar, as if they’d been directly imported from Sweeney Todd. I was dying for Nancy to come in and do ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ or something, and cheer us all up.

What I’m saying, I think, is that it’s just so soaringly monotonous. It might have been different on stage, where the business of staging something so epic would be more impressive, but I’ll never know. I cried, obviously, but that means diddly-squat. I cry at puppy and kitten videos. I cried when Rachel and Ross finally got together in Friends. It is never a recommendation. And although hard-core fans will love this whatever, and good luck to them, I’d rather set fire to my own hair than ever have to sit through it again. It would be over quicker, at least.

Readers who have not come across Deborah Ross’s film reviews before can find the rest here.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close