There was a brief moment when the first trailer for Tom Hooper's Les Miserables was released where I thought that maybe this would, against all odds, be a movie for me. As you may or may not recall I generally hate musicals, but hey, I like Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, and stranger things have happened. Perhaps I was dizzy with Mayan prophecies? Well much like that fabled doom, this too did pass - I'm happy to report that Les Mis made me want to claw my own face off. Crisis averted!
I kid, I kid. Not about it making me want to claw my own face off, that much is true. (Terribly, terribly true.) But I'm not happy about that. I can like musicals! It is entirely possible. (I love The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, for example. If you were to stop me on the street, you complete stranger, and say to me, "Hey you! Come home with me and we shall watch the Umbrellas of Cherbourg together, and dance!" I would probably take you up on the offer, you know, as long as you didn't have visible sores or anything.) And if I'm going to spend three hours in a movie theater, I really would like to enjoy what I am watching. Every time! It's true! I would've loved for these flamboyantly nasty bunch of Frenchies to make my day. Unfortunately all I got made was my patience - made like murder.
So here. Here's my problem with Les Mis. It's not to do with the story, or the music, or the acting. The story's a bit, um, broad, sure. Like broad. Like, a drunken Shelley Winters brrrrrrrooooooooad. But I can sometimes be called, in the right light, on the right day near the right solstices, a storied connoisseur of broad. That isn't necessarily a prob. Acting-wise, there was some terrific good stuff going on, I say in the general direction of everyone not named Russell Crowe. Anne Hathaway maybe opened wide and gnawed on my eyeballs along with the sets a little bit, but hey, she got it done. And Amanda Seyfried, my favorite sweet little slutty bird, actually made me cry. She wrung out a single teardrop - a teardrop I really did not want to let go. If it were possible to will a teardrop back into one's eye, I would've willed the ever living fuck out of this one. I could have busted my blood-vessels trying, but no go. So good work there, Mandy.
My problem does have to do tangentially with the music, but it's not the music proper. Some of theses songs, dare I admit it, are pretty little things. No, it's the fact that about an hour in I was hyperventilating on it. This movie refuses to breathe. It is nearly three straight hours of straight singing in your face. Bombastic every-emotion-is-the -most-emotiony-emotion-ever- emotioned singing. Very nearly entirely in close-up. It's not that the lack of spoken dialogue that's my problem - remember Umbrellas of Cherbourg! I can deal! No it's the lack of silence, any silence whatsoever, that is my problem. You could practically set a metronome to the miniscule moments of pause that Hooper would give you before another song began. Nobody can ever just sit there and take a break from their busy routine of spreading sewage on their personhood to stare out a window for a minute? Nobody can ever shut up. And zoom, we're in close up. And I have more teeth-grit and spittle-flecks all up in my business again. And again. And again again again. It was exhausting. This movie exhausted me. I want to italicize that - it exhausted me - but I wouldn't be able to stop there; my entire reaction to this movie should be italicized, a shrill cry of exasperated repulsion. Get out of my damned face, Tom Hooper!