Heaven Knows Les Miserable Now…


It was made known to me a couple of weeks ago that my better half would like to go to see ‘Les Miserable’ while it was still showing in the cinema.

Of course, instead of demanding “we’re going” (no chance of that happening), or the more subtle “I’ve asked with my friend/sister, but they’re so busy” (not listening), MBH was smart and let the thought fester with me for a couple of weeks. She wanted US to go together. Shit.
Oh well, being the diligent type, and feeling like it would be nice to do something together other than laugh at the dog’s old/new/same tricks (a much underrated pastime for those of us without TV’s), I looked into what cinema chains were still showing it and what times it was running. Too late to back out now. It was a done deal.
So, it was with a mixed sense of fear, apprehension, and over-acting that we toddled off to the local world of cine.You see, it’s not that I didn’t really want to got to the movies with MBH. Far from it. It’s just that musicals and me, well, we don’t get along that well. Or at least my experience of them (however limited) would be a tad biased. Let me explain.
Winter 1999, I visited New York. First time. Awesome anticipation at experiencing lots of firsts. Greenwich Village, Empire State, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island…you know, all that good stuff. As I was located on W46th Street, Broadway was just around the corner, it was suggested to me (by my companion and native New Yorker) that we “go see a show”. And from there it went a bit “Pete Tong”.
As we sat in our discounted matinée seats, over-priced, weak drinks in hand (very civilized theatres are), the performance started (FYI it was ‘RENT’ we were watching). The band/orchestra in the pit at the front of the stage (a good thing) started, followed shortly by a huge burst of very loud singing.
“OK, it’s a musical…”, I mused in a sage-like fashion, but after about 30 minutes with nothing else but singing I asked my companion “so, when do they start talking?”.
The reply, when it came, was one of considerable disdain and disbelief, “They don’t – it’s a musical!”.
 “Oh…?”, I replied. It must have been one of those moments when you look like a  dog that had just been shown a card trick.
The next two hours or so were spent rather uncomfortably and somewhat impatiently waiting for something to happen. Something other than folk asking singing why there was no milk in the fridge, but in a mildly operatic, look at me I’m ACTING, kinda way. I hated it. Every single second of it. It was boring and loud. Camp (nothing primarily against things being camp per se) and cheesy. Eugh…if only there had been talking in it? At least I tried?
Fast forward to the movie theatre, present day, and as we’re about to take our seats my heart sank. This could only happen to me, right?
We have the outside seats on the row and there’s a guy with a kid of all of 4 years old (I shit you not) wanting to get past to get to his seats. What are some people thinking? I’m all for getting kids into the arts and all, but that’s just too much. However, the guy has the right idea. He pushes the kid along the row to her mother, then he splits. Good call buddy.
To her credit, the kid must have been force-fed Nyquil or something as there wasn’t a peep out of her. But then again, they left about halfway through the film.
So, with one eye on the potentially annoying kid (although, personally, I blame the parents) I was keeping a lookout for other random acts of muppetry as the film commenced. There were a few random flashes of flickering smartphone screens, but on the whole not too bad. With one exception.
Also on our row, was Old Man A. I’d rather use a more sweary description of him, but in hindsight I’m feeling generous. Well, if he didn’t stop messing around with his ‘flip’ cellphone. Opening and shutting. Opening and shutting. A good Scottish word came to mind – ‘footering’. Hmmmm….
 Eventually, he answers his phone (this is about 20 mins in to the film) and relays the following information.
” Mumble, mumble, incoherent mumble…kong-il-kong (공일공 – zero-one-zero)…” He’s telling someone on the other end his phone number.
“Mumble, more mumble, getting louder so now everyone can hear me, not quite so incoherent…kong-il-kong (공일공 – zero-one-zero)…”
Now almost shouting – “KONG- IL – KONG….”. Three times.
Man, he has no idea how close he was to becoming the recipient of the Glasgow Kiss that had his name written all over it. KONG IL KONG indeed.
I had that weird feeling that I was somehow being tested on the levels of my patience. Something I’m not exactly renowned for. Mild palpitations narrowly avoided, it was on with the show.
I’ve never read Victor Hugo’s book, nor had I (for obvious reasons) seen the stage production of Les Miserables. I had however, listened to a review on the BBC via Kermode and Mayo. Truth be told, it mostly went in one ear and out the other. In other words, I was prepared to be as open-minded as I could.
As it turned out, I quite enjoyed it. Surprisingly.
It looked great. It wasn’t boring, even though it ran for more than two and a half hours. There were some good set pieces. Some interesting camera work. A bit of light humour here and there.  And as weird as this may sound, the songs (with the exception of the excruciatingly annoying “One Day More” – where you have 6 different characters all singing different parts about what ‘they’re having for tonight’s tea and oh, let’s have a revolution’- this was the only part of the film where I unleashed a BIG sigh, but still refrained from getting all ‘sweary’) were, (whilst not the most memorable, with the noted exception above), decent. I just tried to let it flow. All in all, the cast did a pretty good job of  it I thought.
Hugh Jackman is very good in the central role and thankfully wasn’t as camp as Christmas. He can obviously hold a tune, act, all of that. Much better in this kind of stuff  compared to that Wolverine rubbish.
Russell Crowe sings like he’s reading a traffic report. He’s pants. You’re not supposed to empathize with his character (he’s the ‘baddie’ – if you didn’t know already?), but he just plays the part with so much “CHEEEZZZZ”. Actually, he’s the kind of baddie that you don’t really ‘hate’ that much. He’s just a bit annoying, continually spoiling everyone else’s buzz. Good news for RC was that as all the other actors apparently had to ‘drop’ 30-40lbs for their respective roles while he maintained a steady consumption of pies. To keep in character, of course.
Tian Zhan
Anne Hathaway – Has gathered about a squillion nominations and awards for her performance, but I’m not sure why myself? I mean, she was OK. Not terrible. But I just don’t get all the fuss? Maybe it’s because her character ‘Fantine’ has such a shitty time of it and is (literally and metaphorically) in the gutter and has to resort to the unimaginable to survive?
Come Oscar night, when she’s all glammed up in her uber-expensive frock, draped in jewelry that has the same value as the GDP as a small Caribbean island nation, she might come up with a better quote than this one when asked about her character…
“So what I did is I tried to get inside the reality of her story as it exists in our world. To do that I read a lot of articles and documentaries and news clips about sexual slavery,” Hathaway continued. “For me, this particular story … I came to the realization that Fantine doesn’t live in the past- she’s living in New York City right now; she’s probably less than a block away.””This injustice exists in our world, so every day that I was her, I thought, this isn’t an invention, this isn’t me acting- this is me honoring that this pain lives in this world, and I hope that we see an end,” the actress added.
Really? How quaint.

Borat was also in the movie, playing himself, but with a Cockney accent. His wife, also playing it ‘Cock-er-knee’, was played by Helena Bonham Carter. She must have it in her contract to always be typecast as some kind of ‘goth’?

However, my favourite bit in the film was when Fernando Torres turned up, acting all a bit upper-class revolutionary (never a good thing), but ended up coming across as more of a foppish, soppy twat. Oh, Fernando…

Fernando Torres sings the blues...
Fernando Torres sings the blues…
I was longing for ‘Nando’ to take one ‘right between the eyes’. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Oh, is that a plot spoiler? In fact, after ‘googling’ yer man, I wasn’t surprised to find out that he’d been a bit typecast. I’m sure the advert in ‘The Stage’ said something like –
“Wanted – Old Etonian, must also have attended Trinity College Cambridge, to play oneself in Les Mis. No psuedo-foppish twattery, only the real thing will do. Can sing ‘softly’, a bonus”…
There were also a couple of random urchin types, running around, being all leery and geezerish (I thought this was set in Paris?). Did somebody think they could through in some Oliver Twist or Mary Poppins for good measure?
All my good-natured jibes and natural cynicism aside, I came away from the film not really feeling much in the way of empathy with any of the characters (with the exception of the quite ‘fit’ Samantha Barks’ ‘Eponine’), but kind of enjoyed it nonetheless. At least I enjoyed it more than I thought than I ever could. Who’d have thought, eh?
Would I watch another one? Mama Mia, Evita…eh, not sure I’m quite ready for that just yet. Let’s just leave it there, shall we?

Author: From a Late Night Train

Teacher. Musician. Ponderer. Had lived in Seoul, South Korea since 2000. Moved back to Glasgow, Scotland in May 2017.

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