Les Miserables

This review contains spoilers, but since I assume everyone in the world already knows the story it’s ok. It is surely a testament to the success of Les Miserables that any mention of the French Revolution is inextricably associated with flag waving barricade dwellers, defiantly standing against their oppressors and eventually rising to storm the Bastille. Perhaps though, that is the enduring image because it is actually what happened, that Les Mis co-opts this exciting and romantic narrative to be subjugated with a horrible little romance is frankly rather a shame. I have never seen the play. This is because I am no fan of musical theatre, and said theatres translation into film is never going to be especially appealing to me. I dislike all the standing around, its actually quite difficult to do anything whilst you are singing your little heart out. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch this outstandingly long film. It starts with singing, then there is more singing, then at the end, people are still singing. I don’t suppose I should have expected anything else. The thing is, for a film that is so bloody long, which ostensibly spans many years of French history, nothing much really happens.  Actually, that is not true, loads of stuff happens: a scumbag has a revelation that he probably shouldn’t be a scumbag, some other dude tries to catch him a lot, someone becomes a prostitute, some guys try to do a revolution, and someone kills themselves for no real reason. All this stuff though is ultimately in the service of the least interesting, and frankly confounding aspect of the story, a love affair based, literally, on a lingering glance across a crowded street. Most of that other stuff was quite exciting and fun, if gloriously stupid (especially the killing of self), but the love stuff is so wildly ridiculous that it is frankly astounding that it even exists as a plot device. Our main man Huge Jack Man literally decides he is willing to die, so some twerp he has never met, and who, incidentally, his daughter has only met for about seven seconds, can live. Given that the story so carefully lays out the reasons behind the French Revolution (basically everything being awful) it’s surprising that the same sort of care is not given to establishing at least some sort of relationship between the two people about which the whole film comes to revolve. Establishing a relationship would literally have required there to be some sense of them spending a couple of hours in a room together, and maybe a nice steamy scene to nicely juxtapose the awful prostitute times of Cassette tapes mother.  Did I mention her name is Cassette? I mean, its Cosette really, but it’s one of the only ways to make the film less infuriating if you call her Cassette tape. Les Mis isn’t a bad film for what it is, and I have no doubt lovers of the play will enjoy it. Really my issue is with the story not the film. I just really, really, can’t see how a story with such a shallow, meaningless love affair at its very heart has endured for so long.

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