Les Miserables Review from The Atlantic, for Musical Obsessives, a Must-See

Les-Miserables

Les Miserables is getting hit pretty hard with some reviews but here’s a positive one from The Atlantic:

There are moments in Les Misérables, the movie musical adaptation from The King’s Speechdirector Tom Hooper, that are so rumbling and rousing and righteous that certain people might be immediately transported back into the theater seat where they, smaller of body but probably bigger of heart, first fell in love with the sweep and swoon of musical theater. That’s the big, definitive declaration I’m going to make about this turgid movie, a gut-pouring melodrama that never flinches in the face of its own largeness. I’m not sure how people who are not musical obsessives will react to the film — it takes the form very seriously — but for those with any decent amount of showtune-itis in their blood, Les Misérables is, I’m surprised to find myself saying, something of a must-see.

Crafts Featurette Makeup for Les Miserables

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Interview: Tom Hooper and Les Mis

50 Comments

  1. Hanson
    December 18, 2012

    In the mean Time Django is still at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 34 reviews.

  2. December 18, 2012

    I love how so many critics have opted to respond to such an apparently bold film with such measured reviews. They seem to be saying that it’s equally terrific and terrible. Handling complex thoughts rather than taking sides for the sake of it.

  3. SeattleMoviegoer
    December 18, 2012

    I grew up in the 60s when musicals weren’t some foreign entity that invaded my local cinema, they were–like westerns, dramas, comedies, etc.–just part of “going to the movies.” It wasn’t a gay or girly thing, specifically. Most of our dads were fans as well and packed up the kids to take them to WEST SIDE STORY, or MARY POPPINS or SOUND OF MUSIC. In every household (and I mean EVERY house) you’d walk in and find the soundtracks of POPPINS, MUSIC, WWS, and MY FAIR LADY sitting next to the big, wood console record player. No one ever questioned the “reality” of a movie character ‘breaking into song.’ They did that naturally…because you knew going in that it was a musical. Gene Kelly did it, so did Fred Astaire. And if it was a movie of something from Broadway, the convention was innately understood. Well, after the 70s movies became more gritty, “real” (or so we thought), ironic, laden with sarcasm and a hipster, wanna-be-cool mentality. The musical withdrew back to the stage and went on to make more money than their producers ever thought possible in their wildest dreams. (CATS, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LES MISERABLES, MAMMA MIA and LION KING have all made more money, individually, than AVATAR or GONE WITH THE WIND.) Yet in the midst of this gritty, cool, ironic new world of movies, there is a general acceptance that “real” is men dressed like bats who fly and single-handedly beat up legions of bad guys…or boys bitten by spiders or rich guys in super metal outfits who can also fly and conquer armies of villains. “Reality” also is swallowed when it comes to Austrian muscle-men who mow down hundreds of opponents in present time or as a cyborg from the future. We buy into foppish pirates in improbable adventures and metal, transforming space creatures and hammer-wielding demigods from other planets and men who get giant and green when angry. But GOD FORBID a movie character today that expresses itself in song and dance in the way that movie characters have done FOR NEARLY A CENTURY ON FILM!! For some reason that has to be explained to audiences by journalists and bloggers (or to the journalists and bloggers themselves). Every time a new movie musical comes out, the chat and talk and written words about this age-old convention are endlessly and nauseatingly repeated about a movie genre that really shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone–even young people who grew up on mini-musicals on Sesame Street or watched Disney animated classics or the WIZARD OF OZ. I say, God Bless this genre–and all others that make up the wonderful world of movies. I don’t sit and separate the ones I will watch…because I am a movie lover. I seek the best of all genres. If a movie is great, I’m in heaven. Whether it be a political thriller in Iran or a historical epic with the great emancipator or an adaptation of a great French novel that is sung instead of spoken…I say, hallelujah. Gore Vidal, who died this year, said movies were more satisfying to him in his life than sex. It’s a stretch, but he might have a point. So, bring on the musicals. But, more importantly, bring on the great movies–they add so much to life. OK, now I’ve had my say.

  4. Glenn UK
    December 18, 2012

    SeattleMoviegoer you are my hero! What you wrote above is utter perfection. I wish every critic and blogger could read your words and digest them and I wish they could have your approach to ALL movies they go and watch. I honestly think that is one of the best posts ever written.

  5. Daveylow
    December 18, 2012

    Matt Wolf, a very good critic for the London Evening Standard who also contributes to the NY Times, likes the film, too:
    http://www.standard.co.uk/arts/film/mad-about-les-misrables-8392734.html

  6. SeattleMoviegoer
    December 18, 2012

    Oh, and by the way, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is, in adjusted dollars as per inflation, the 3rd most popular film of all time. And it won the Best Picture Oscar and it was trashed by the major critics of its day.

  7. Daveylow
    December 18, 2012

    The movie does appear to appeal to those who love the theater. Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the Tony Award winner In the Heights tweeted several favorable thoughts about the movie last week. I’m wondering if young teen age girls will flock to this film over the holidays.

  8. LSUduck
    December 18, 2012

    I have to agree with Paddy. Lisa Schwarzbaum basically hated the film and crapped all over it in her review yet she only gave the film a C. Some of these reviews talk the talk but don’t walk the walk with their final grade. Only 12 reviews in on Metacritic and for all the talk of bad reviews, only one is deemed to be negative by its grade.

  9. rufussondheim
    December 18, 2012

    Yes, Mr. Seattle. You couldn’t be more correct.

    Paddy says…

    I love how so many critics have opted to respond to such an apparently bold film with such measured reviews. They seem to be saying that it’s equally terrific and terrible. Handling complex thoughts rather than taking sides for the sake of it.

    but that’s the way the stage show is, nearly equal parts terrific and terrible. When it clicks, it’s quite amazing, and when it doesn’t, it can be quite laborious. And that’s what happens in a musical of this type, once you get the gist of the song, you either like what’s going on and enjoy it or you’re ready to yell “next!” Except for a handful of songs, very little happens within each song to keep the momentum going forward. Most of the songs are not meaty enough (at least intellectually) to keep you interested for the length of the song.

  10. rufussondheim
    December 18, 2012

    I’m wondering if young teen age girls will flock to this film over the holidays.

    I’ve been wondering this too. The triangle that dominates the middle section of the film with Marius, Cosette and Eponine could totally capture them. When Eponine sings “On My Own” it’s tailor-made for teen girls and drag queens (and the people who love them.)

  11. Sasha Stone
    December 18, 2012

    Well I know a lot of Les Miz fans, die hard fans of the show, that hated the movie. It just depends on whether you love it or not – I suspect if it moves you enough you will overlook its flaws. But this is probably to Tom Hooper as Gangs of New York is Scorsese. Same type of deal.

  12. Aragorn
    December 18, 2012

    And of course some were pretty determined not to like this movie even before seeing it just because it was directed by Tom Hooper. That name will remind them forever of Fincher’s loss. So they will be looking for reasons just to say ” see Hooper is not a good director”.

  13. Josh
    December 18, 2012

    I guess to me this is all just playing out like myself and others have thought it would from the very beginning. People that love it are going to love it and there are those that will hate it. I have always thought that even though this is arguably the most beloved musical of our time that that does NOT mean it will be a great movie, let alone a massive awards WINNER (not nominee).

    It’s similar to how a lot of people think about books made into movies. So many times the consensus is that the book trumps the movie. How often is your favorite book that is a movie as good or better than the book? Sometimes sure, but not very often is it better.

    For those that have never seen the musical or read the book, they could love it since that’s all they have to base it on. I am not shocked one bit at the ho hum overall reviews of this.

  14. Joey
    December 18, 2012

    lol. Sasha… I love your site, but you clearly have your favorites this year. I guess I’m just cracking up by this phrase, “Les Mis is getting hit pretty hard by some reviews.” Uh, huh? Compared to ZDT, sure. But it’s at 75% on RT. Hardly a panned film. That’s perfectly acceptable for a BP win if it picks up the Globe and a few other precursors. Crash was at 76% when it won.

  15. Joey
    December 18, 2012

    Again! “ho hum overall reviews” would, to me, put the film at around 50%. That’s what I consider a love it or hate movie. This film is currently at 75% with only a fraction of reviews in. It could easily climb or follow, but its still way too early to call it a bad reviewed film.

  16. matthew
    December 18, 2012

    @SeattleMovieGoer — THANK YOU.

  17. Josh
    December 18, 2012

    Is she not allowed to have favorites? Jesus Christ people. Just because she and quite a few others aren’t falling over themselves in praise and love for this movie you scoff and play the ‘you clearly have favorites’ lame card?

    You CANNOT tell me that of the reviews so far for Les Mis that it’s falling right in line with how a LARGE portion of people were saying it was the movie to beat. It has ZERO perfect scores on Metacritic (top score of 80). Crash had 6 perfect 100/100. Yes there are more reviews to come in, but I highly doubt it gets that many perfect scores.

    Also, her comment ‘Les Mis is getting hit pretty hard by some reviews’…I assume you’re meaning the overall scores or grades? She could mean that it’s chances and momentum and buzz are getting hitting hard due to some of the reviews by critics…which is true.

    What happens if/when it doesn’t pick up wins at the Globes or precursors? What will your excuse be then? Bad taste?

  18. Josh
    December 18, 2012

    The fact you are having to use Rotten Tomatoes for it’s 75% says it all. Shocking you aren’t using it’s 56 score on Metacritic.

  19. Daveylow
    December 18, 2012

    Dave Karger did a Q&A with Academy voters a few days ago and they gave Les Miz two standing ovations. I’m looking forward to seeing the film at the Ziegfeld in NYC next Tuesday without film critics.

  20. Joey
    December 18, 2012

    lol, breathe Josh. She can have favorites.. when did I say otherwise? Personally, I never expected Les Mis to be a critical darling. I know the show, and I know plenty of people that can’t stand it. That was bound to cross over. But, my main point, is that it’s still WAY too early to talk about the film like it’s over and done. The reviews still put it in contention.

    Also, just personally, I hate Metacritic. I think it’s a pretty terrible way to read reviews. The same reason why, when predicting elections, I don’t just depend on ABC/NBC/CBS polls. You average all of them together to get a better handle on public reception. “The most respected critics!” it claims. Umm, ok? Critics give opinions. What does it matter if it’s a respected opinion or not? Respected by whom? Give me the biggest statistical sample over “my favorite critics” any day.

    Here’s my favorite quote from Metacritic’s FAQ:

    “Can you tell me how each of the different critics are weighted in your formula?”

    Absolutely not.

  21. PJ
    December 18, 2012

    I never would have guessed that by this time last year that Les Miserables would be more divisive then Django Unchained.

  22. phantom
    December 18, 2012

    And we are talking about critical consensus 30 (MC) and 100 (RT) reviews away from the final scores because ? The 75 RT/56 MC are completely IRRELEVANT at the moment, Julie and Julia started at 11% on RT (ended with 75), Breaking Dawn started with 100% (ended with 51); Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had sat on 64 for a week before sinking to 46 on MC, Lincoln had been in the high 70s for days before finishing at 86 etc.

    Bottom line : Those LesMis-scores currently based on 12 (MC) and 51 (RT) reviews could go anywhere from 40s (RT)/30 (MC) to high 80s (RT)/70s (MC) when all is said and done. So it might be wise to just wait for those reviews (the final MC-score is based on 40-45, the final RT-score is based on 150-200) before drawing any conclusions.

  23. Joey
    December 18, 2012

    Well said, phantom

  24. December 18, 2012

    I guess I’m just cracking up by this phrase, “Les Mis is getting hit pretty hard by some reviews.” Uh, huh? Compared to ZDT, sure. But it’s at 75% on RT. Hardly a panned film.

    It’s still getting hit pretty hard by some reviews. Not all reviews, but definitely some, and definitely some more than many had expected.

  25. John
    December 18, 2012

    Everyone can have favorites. And I think Sasha has been very fair about Les Miserables, especially taking into account the TSN/TKS thing.

    Sasha was not wild about Les Mis when she first saw it, then she liked it quite a bit more the second time around. She also acknowledges the flaws of the movie which are mentioned by many critics (even many that enjoyed the movie greatly).

    Like I mentioned a week ago or so, I find it interesting that the bad reviews are written with such venom, and yet, there’s an acknowledgement of performance and skill in the movie that is preventing flat-out pans.

    Me? I can’t wait to see it. I LOVE Les Miserables. But …. I also know going into it that there will likely be flaws and I may not love everything I see.

  26. December 18, 2012

    OT : With passionate Oscar winning superstar supporters like Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie, I think The Impossible will be able to pull off the crucial 5% No1 in BP and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ewan McGregor became the outofblue-acting nominee this year…not to mention the film is a viable long shot in a lot of other categories, too (original screenplay, score, cinematography, editing, sound, sound editing). Also, I’ve been saying this for months, but I still firmly believe Naomi Watts could WIN. Her role is VERY Academy-friendly in a tearjerking movie that has sleeper hit written all over it.

    Long story short, I think it could have 5 nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress.

  27. December 18, 2012

    But it’s at 75% on RT. Hardly a panned film.

    Some scores of 75 are worth more than the simple average might suggest. 10 scores of 100 and 10 scores of 50 give you a 75, but that formula puts any movie in much better position than 20 scores of 75.
    - Prof. Obvious

  28. Patrick
    December 18, 2012

    Again!
    Lol, breathe Joey.

    “ho hum overall reviews” would, to me, put the film at around 50%. That’s what I consider a love it or hate movie. This film is currently at 75% with only a fraction of reviews in.
    For a lot (if not all) of these critics, giving a film 50% is hating it. If you’re expecting to see an average of 50% for a love/hate movie, then you’re assuming that critics hand out scores of 0 just as often as they’d hand out scores of 100, which is rarely ever the case.

  29. Patrick
    December 18, 2012

    I guess I’m just cracking up by this phrase, “Les Mis is getting hit pretty hard by some reviews.” Uh, huh? Compared to ZDT, sure. But it’s at 75% on RT. Hardly a panned film.
    Somehow you misinterpreted her as saying, “Les Mis is a panned film”… I thought it was pretty clear that some (not all and not most) reviews have hit the movie hard.

  30. Hanson
    December 18, 2012

    I think les is this years The Reader and Blideside. If it get a nod it will be the worst of the bunch. So far reviews are not matching Django. ZD30, Masters, beast, Life of Pie, Moonrise, and Lincoln.

  31. steve50
    December 18, 2012

    “But this is probably to Tom Hooper as Gangs of New York is Scorsese. Same type of deal.”

    Excellent analogy, Sasha, and that’s what I’m expecting. Both reached, respectively, but Scorsese’s arms are considerably longer.

    The hard sell for Les Mis is going to be the fact that it is a genre to which audiences outside of larger urban areas are seldom exposed. To appreciate it, I think you would have had to seen and be a fan of not just stage musicals, but those similar in form to opera where there is little or no dialogue.

    If you surrender to it, it can be a moving experience, and in the hands of a great director (I’m thinking Bergman’s The Magic Flute) it can succeed onscreen. From the reviews I’ve read, however, it appears to be the reputation of the music and a hard-working marketing dept that will get people in the seats – but can Hooper deliver? I’m not so sure he was the right choice. If that turns out to be true, we’ll not see more of the genre onscreen anytime soon, which is unfortunate.

    (I would be first in line for your version of Assassins, though, rufus!)

  32. rufussondheim
    December 18, 2012

    If a version of Assassins comes to a regional theater near you, by all means, go see it. I imagine even a bad staging of it will be pretty damn good (provided the actors can carry a tune.)

  33. Scott
    December 18, 2012

    I’m interested to see how Les Miz performs at the box office. I’ve been seeing some 100 thou plus predix and that seems a bit of a stretch. In film, French history with little dialogue and lots of songs seems like a hard sell for America. This ain’t Chicago.

  34. JP
    December 18, 2012

    “But this is probably to Tom Hooper as Gangs of New York is Scorsese. Same type of deal.”

    Or what The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is to David Fincher.

  35. FilmFan
    December 18, 2012

    It is, unfortunately, not a great movie. It has some wonderful moments but its not a great film. I think a lot of fans will be disappointed — especially with Hugh’s full-voiced “Bring Him Home.” It us without question the worst version if that sing I’ve ever heard. I found that moment shocking. Just a horrible choice to sing if that way.
    Eddie Redmayne walks off with the whole movie. He’s wonderful.

  36. FilmFan
    December 18, 2012

    Uggh! Sorry for all the typos. Darn phone.

  37. Josh
    December 18, 2012

    Another 50/100 score posted on Metacritic on Les Miz from Village Voice. Brings it’s average down from 56 to 55.

    Shocking to me, Rex Reed’s review of Django has been added to Metacritic and he gave it a perfect 100/100. Average up to 82.

  38. Daveylow
    December 18, 2012

    Did producer Cameron Mackintosh influence the way Les Miz was edited? Look at this piece from the NY Post:
    http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/theater/hit_miss_for_producer_fSgvICW35EYjNkgMt3DmbJ

  39. Daveylow
    December 18, 2012

    “The hard sell for Les Mis is going to be the fact that it is a genre to which audiences outside of larger urban areas are seldom exposed. To appreciate it, I think you would have had to seen and be a fan of not just stage musicals, but those similar in form to opera where there is little or no dialogue.”

    If you have a TV and access to PBS, you’ve been exposed to Les Miserables.

  40. Bob Burns
    December 19, 2012

    The new translation by Julie Rose is sparkling.

    The all over the place reactions to the film are of a piece with the reactions to Les Miserables since it was published. The histories of the era and biographies of Hugo are all over the place, too.

  41. Kane
    December 19, 2012

    I almost never go off Rottentomatoes scoring. It’s so black and white, no shades of gray. Metacritic is basically regular school-scoring by a percentage whereas Rottentomatoes is just a pass/fail system. In any case, I knew this was coming for Les Miz. I only thought all the nominations would come out before the reviews did. Just about every musical has failed to live up to the hype including Nine, Rock of Ages and to a point Dreamgirls. If you notice, those sorts of films are mostly built around one grand performance and one grand show-stopping number. But once that’s over with then everything’s downhill and the cracks start to show. The only musical, well sort of, that I consider a true success since Chicago is Once. What made it great wasn’t just the low budget charm to it all but also that it had a story and characters to actually care about. There were breaks in between songs to soak in their emotions.

  42. John
    December 19, 2012

    Yeah, to me, a musical like Chicago was tailor made for successful movie musical adaptation. I really believe that. There are not that many musicals out there anymore that can be made with that sweeping 50s and 60s movie sensibility anymore.

  43. steve50
    December 19, 2012

    “If you have a TV and access to PBS, you’ve been exposed to Les Miserables”

    True, but would they have stayed tuned in? TV viewing is a very different experience. It definitely helps with familiarity with the music, but does not recreate the culture of theater-going audiences, which is a unique experience.

    Rex Reed gave Django a perfect score?! Either he was smitten by the sight of Jamie Foxx in cowboy garb or the Mayans were right and the end of the world is nigh.

  44. rufussondheim
    December 19, 2012

    Now that Sondheim is not producing new stuff and his influence is waning and there’s clearly no one talented enough to continue moving theater forward, what we’re seeing is regression. The Book of Mormon is as old-fashioned and traditional as a musical can get, even though it’s filled with profanity and contemporary themes. It’s a very basic structure and it’s not at all complex structurally. I’ll grant you that the lyrics are a step up over more traditional fare in that the songs fit the situation better, but still it’s a very simple show.

    I think that’s where theater is heading over the next couple of decades, theater for the masses rather than theater catering to a more intellectual esoteric crowd. The days of Sweeney Todd, Company, and Sunday in the Park With George are over.

  45. Sasha Stone
    December 19, 2012

    If you have a TV and access to PBS, you’ve been exposed to Les Miserables.

    But Hooper’s version is VERY VERY different from PBS’. It’s a merciless sit.

  46. Kane
    December 19, 2012

    Sadly I have not seen any of Hooper’s TV work but I can tell he has a very specific style when it comes to framing his actors. I generally loved The Damned United and felt, between that and The King’s Speech, that particular style worked. I also get why that type of framing can work but it can run the risk of really detach the audience from the film and give them a cold feeling.

  47. GoOnNow
    December 19, 2012

    I just watched the film and I have to be honest with the world:

    I could not enjoy it :(

    Was it the high expectations? I do not know.
    I was disappointed that absolutely everything was in verse.

    Now I understand why the current Metacritic status is 55/100

    I would be very sad if the film gets strong Oscar recognition.

    The movie is so long, Anne Hathaway’s participation almost felt like a cameo to me.

  48. Daveylow
    December 19, 2012

    “Sadly I have not seen any of Hooper’s TV work but I can tell he has a very specific style when it comes to framing his actors.”

    Worth watching: John Adams (13 Emmy Awards), Elizabeth 1 (marvelous work by Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons, Hugh Dancy), Longford, Daniel Deronda, Prime Suspect 6.

  49. Bob Burns
    December 19, 2012

    It’s a merciless read. Hugo’s a motherfucker.

    His opera Hernani, written while he was still in his 20′s, caused a riot, at least as vehement as the Rites of Spring riot. Les Miserables was published 35 years later, while he was a political exile.

  50. December 23, 2012

    I have been a fan of the musical for well over a decade, since having seen it twice in regional summer touring. Was wonderfully staged, acted, and sung back then; BUT, that said, I am aleady getting a feeling that the movie will not come nearly up to my hopeful expectations. It needed a special touch that I am afraid it did not get in this rendering. Loved SeattleMovieGoers post, as it definitely brought back memories of my childhood, and he was spot on. Have a friend in that immediate are who needs to read this post as well. Thanks!

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