8 January 2013
There is one thing you can say about those revolution-era French peasants...they were definitely "miserable," and more miserable in the sweeping movie saga than can be presented in the stage version of Les Miserables. (The stage version, for one thing, can't begin to give anyone a feel for how disgusting it REALLY is to be mucking around in the sewers of Paris!)
Yes, we have seen yet another movie. Almost every time Jeri comes, we end up having "family movie night" where we pick a movie to see together. Since we were on our way to celebrate a belated Christmas with Ned and Marta in the evening, we had "family movie morning" today, since the first showing of Les Miserables was at 11:30.
Everything you may have read about this movie is true. It's a spectacle, most of the performers are incredible, Ann Hathaway should win an Oscar for her performance of Fantine, and what in God's name was the director thinking casting Russell Crowe as Javert?
If there is anything that takes this movie down, it's every scene that Crowe is in. Instead of giving us the power of a Gladiator, he is stiff as a board. He may have the voice of a pop singer (which means he can carry a tune, sort of), but is hopelessly out-sung by the quality of the voices of everyone else in the show, even down to little Gavroche. Maybe he was cast to add "star power" to the marquee, but he certainly is not an asset to this otherwise wonderful film.
Now. That said. What happens when three theater people, all of whom have seen this musical many times (and Jeri has played it many times) begin to analyze the movie, which we all agreed we liked very much? We nit-pick it to death.
We went to Panera restaurant for a late light lunch after the show and started to analyze both the movie and the story. It is not a plot that stands up to close scrutiny. Take Javert, for example. I have never understood why he is obsessed with a guy whose crime was stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family and who has served his time (19 years of hard labor) to the point where Javert chases the guy for more than 20 years, trying to capture him and, I guess, return him to jail after he has served his time and has been released (well he had jumped parole). Twenty years chasing this guy. Are there no other crimes in France? Is Jean Valjean really on France's Most Wanted list?
Secondly, I have never understood this rebellion in the first place, from the first time I saw the show on stage, and it makes less sense in the movie version where the scale is grander. This isn't "the French Revolution" but merely the "June Rebellion" (the sequel to the "July Rebellion" two years eariler). They gather all the furniture they can find, they block off a street, and this rag-tag band of rebels with just a few guns take on the entire French army--and their canons. After spending half the show getting ready for the fight, the battle lasts about 5 minutes, almost everyone is killed and the soldiers take their canons and presumably go back to the barracks.
This battle didn't even last as long as the Six-days War.
I'm sure there was more to it than that in real life, but it always struck me as an exercise in futility and a sure-fire way to end your life quickly...and if that was the purpose, it works beautifully.
Also, Javert takes time off from chasing Valjean to lead the soldiers into battle against the rebels, but he also is the spy for them. Are there no other competent soldiers in the French army? Does Javert have to do it all himself? And if there ARE no other competent soldiers, why were they not beaten handily by the rebels? After Valjean spares his life (nobody questions his assertion that yes, he did shoot the guy, though nobody asks to see the body either because they heard the gun go off), Javert is instantly back in full uniform and leading the charge.
See? The movie, at least, does not hold up to scrutiny. There are more explanatory details in the book, and perhaps even fewer discrepancies in the stage show. Also we all hated that the Thernardiers, the couple who have been taking care of Cosette for her mother, are supposed to bring comic relief to all the gloom and doom and misery, but they were even more gloomy and doomy and miserable and did nothing to lighten the mood.
But that said, we all did love the movie and I'm glad we had a chance to see it with Jeri.
In the evening, we drove in to Sacramento to see Ned & Marta's new place (last time I saw it, they were still unpacking boxes). The five of us went to a neighborhood Mexican restaurant called Three Sisters (apparently no connection to the chain Tres Hermanas!) and had a lovely dinner.
I've said it before...one of my very favorite things is watching my adult children interacting with each other, and how happy I am that they all get along so well.
After dinner, we went back to the house so I could finally give them all their Christmas presents. The Superhero dog toys were a big hit with The Bouncer.
And Ned seemed pleased with his "waddle family" (family joke)
my father with his waddle family in the late 1950s
Unfortunately, I had brought the wrong present for Marta and gave her my mother's, not hers, so I brought that back home again and will give her the "real" present when I next see her. Everybody (my mother, Jeri, Laurel, Alice Nan, and Marta) got Sentsy warmers and 3 different scents. All have theirs now, except my mother -- and Marta, of course!