Suspension of Disbelief: Les Misérables
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.
Title: Les Misérables
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and more
Les Misérables is one of my favorite stories. I’m still working through “the Brick”, but I’ve read the cliff notes versions, seen the musical live, and talked to a lot of people who have read it all the way through. It follows two intersecting tales: one, the redemption of a thief named Jean Valjean, and the other a failed revolution in 19th century France. The book, written by Victor Hugo, is a work of fiction, but the characters, living in poverty and doing what they have to in order to survive, are so compelling, and the situation is so real, that it’s very easy to read it as a memoir instead.
But I’m supposed to be reviewing the movie here, so let’s get into that. I went in with the expectation that it would be a film version of the book, like most other movies. I was a bit jarred, initially, when they began singing. It was a film version of the musical, which I had not been prepared for. Once I adjusted to that, however, I really came to enjoy it. One of the biggest problems with the musical was that I was so far from the stage that I couldn’t really see the actor’s faces. The movie solved this problem quite effectively, with numerous close-ups of the actors at emotional moments. It also created a sense of world that a play can’t achieve, because of the limitations of the set. Seeing the panoramic shots made the story even more “real” to me than it already was. The acting itself was typically quite good too. All of the actor sung live, which means that those without as strong a singing voice tended to be weaker characters. However, I was only drawn away from the story once by the preposterous of these people actually singing everything they said, near the beginning of the film. As I got more into it, it became more and more normal, and thus more enjoyable.
I walked out of the theatre after seeing the Les Mis movie in a daze, because, for me, it was very emotionally intense and very well done. However, I would recommend going into it expecting it to be a film musical, not a normal movie. Still, the music is wonderful, the film is beautiful, and the characters are among the most compelling I’ve met in any work of fiction. I would highly recommend giving it a try.
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