Okay, I’m going to say it. Les Miserables sucked.

Anne knows it and she's one of the good ones

There. I can’t take it back.

We could have done a Phantom Menace and lied to ourselves for months, but I think it’s better to accept the truth now. Ahhh, that’s good. It’s a load off my chest. [Ed note: Spoilers follow].

It’s difficult to see a movie with unfair expectations. They talk of “Oscar buzz” before anyone sits in a cinema.

We have been told for months that we will love this film - so surely there must be something wrong with me when I don’t! The Emperor must be wearing clothes.

I went to the cinema with the best of intentions. I had never seen the live performance and the books remain on my shelf unread.

I wasn’t going to compare it with anything.

It was Gladiator v Wolverine with some help from Catwoman - singing about how terrible life is in post-revolutionary France. And I really wanted to like it.

But instead I found Hugh overacting, Rusty refusing to act and Hathaway (spoiler alert) dead in the first couple of scenes.

It’s not that Hugh and Rusty were bad singers - they just weren’t very good. Kinda like when Nicole tried to sing in Moulin Rouge. Or when Lazenby tried to be Bond.

Oh, and there’s no dialogue. At all! The film lasts 158 minutes and every word is sung.

And after hearing some of the younger performers sing, you notice just how weak Hugh and Rusty were.

The most redeeming thing about the film had to be the levity offered by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.

So can everybody please stop talking about its “Oscar buzz”. The Emperor has no clothes and the movie is crap. Except for Borat. He was hilarious.

Comments on this post close at 6pm AEDST.

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    • Economist says:

      12:05pm | 03/01/13

      It’s a different medium. It’s about the acting more than the singing from what the Director has said.

      I’m going to see it on the weekend, but by jeezzzus no one criticises Hugh Jackman and gets away with it. I’d watch that man painting a wall for 2 hours and would admire every stroke, every wipe of the brow, every nuance in his face in the exasperating activity. I bet he’d act the shit out of it. One of the nice blokes in the industry, a real personality and a gentlemen to boot.

    • sunny says:

      12:35pm | 03/01/13

      “I bet he’d act the shit out of it.”

      Huey J’s acting skills will really have to excel on Oscar night when he loses to some numpty like Keanu Reeves. It’ll be a master class in thinking WTF! all the while sporting a big congratulatory smile and sustained applause for the victor.

    • Rose says:

      01:14pm | 03/01/13

      And herein lies the problem, you don’t care how well Jackman performs in a production, you’ll say it was awesome, despite how well he actually did, just because it was him. That’s the mentality that took Tom Cruise from being a half decent actor to a sub-standard lacklustre egocentric waste of a good storyline!
      Being a nice bloke, a real character and a gentleman is relevant to him in real life, but has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he acted well in a particular production. In this production he was passable, not brilliant!

    • Audra Blue says:

      02:12pm | 03/01/13

      I was under the impression Jackman could actually sing anyway.

      Why was he slammed for it in this movie?

    • Economist says:

      04:38pm | 03/01/13

      Too true Rose, but it’s all about bums on seats. IF Jackman has a wide appeal because of his off scree persona, I’ll part with my hard earned. No doubt this keeps Jackman in work and the director. casting director can pat themselves on the back.

    • Kelly says:

      12:08pm | 03/01/13

      “Oh, and there’s no dialogue. At all! The film lasts 158 minutes and every word is sung. “

      And this was a surprise to you?  I know you say you haven’t seen the musical, but come on.  Surely you must have known what it was based on?

    • Joel M-J says:

      01:18pm | 03/01/13

      I thought it was based on a literary novel written in the mid 19th century. Lot’s of dialogue.

      For all who are disappointed, I offer a consolation in the below link; Liam Neeson makes a great Jean Valjean, and doesn’t sing a single verse.


      Much better I think.

    • Rose says:

      12:19pm | 03/01/13

      I saw it the other day and, while I enjoyed it, it was no masterpiece. Crowe and Jackman were average but Hathaway was brilliant. It was a pity however that Hathaway was on screen for such a limited time.
      People seem to get so caught up in the hype that their judgement seems to be skewed. Modern films are judged masterpieces according to the advertising, not the quality of the movie. Les Mis was OK, but nothing special.

    • Helen says:

      04:25pm | 03/01/13

      I saw it on Boxing Day - I went in expecting to be bored, based on seeing it live (which I had found rather boring). I generally enjoy live productions. Went to see the movie and thought it was brilliant. I thought Jackman WAS brilliant, Crowe’s lack of singing skills probably made everyone else look great, and while Carter and Cohen were hilarious, their singing was not up to scratch. Yet surprisingly, no one comments on that - is it now fashionable to kick the Aussie?

    • Carz says:

      12:20pm | 03/01/13

      Having read the book and seen the musical (both in the theatre and in concert form on DVD) I walked into the theatre with pretty high expectations. I watched the movie and loved almost every minute of it. (Those minutes I didn’t like were the ones with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Instead of being funny they were just slimy. Their scenes made me want to scrub my eyeballs with an alcohol based hand wash.)  This is the review I wrote for my friends after seeing the movie:

      The short review: Les Miserables was f***ing awesome.

      The long review: If you know the musical from the soundtracks or theatre then forget them as you walk through the door of the cinema. In the theatre the show is driven by the music and the lyrics. In the movie it is driven by the characters. Some things are a little out of order to what I was used to, and some bits were left out, but every version has its variations.

      As expected the soundtrack was amazing. Goosebump city. And having the actors sing live has paid off in the most amazing way. Hugh Jackman leads the show but he is never left to carry it. Anne Hathaway’s voice is haunting, as those who have seen the trailer can attest. I have to eat humble pie when it comes to Russell Crowe. His voice is much better than I expected. Sure, he isn’t Philip Quast but then no other actor would be either. Colm Wilkinson as the bishop passes the baton of Jean Valjean while marking yet another role as his (For those who don’t know he was THE original Valjean on the West End). The real stand-outs vocally were the younger members of the cast. The actors who played Eponine, Cosette, Marius, Enjolras, the students and even (especially) little Gavroche, were all amazing.

      The acting was top-notch. Not a wooden performance to be seen. The sets and action were fantastic. I will be thinking hard about whether I will be taking Miss 11. Some of the death scenes are pretty heart-breaking. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but there was more than once during the movie when the only sound you heard were the sobs and sniffs of the audience.

      Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is how quiet it is. Unless they compliment the scene you don’t hear the usual background noises; the footsteps, the noise of a horse and carriage, or the sounds of the students cleaning their guns. While this was done deliberately so that the live singing could take precedence it makes it a little jarring when those sounds are heard.

      The verdict 110 out of 10. I will be seeing it again (and again and again). Les Miserables completely lives up to the hype. It does deserve the M rating though and as such is probably not a movie for the younger ones.

    • Kingy says:

      12:49pm | 03/01/13

      I was going to take the author of the piece to task but there is no need. I too have read the book, seen the West End production and enjoyed immensely two DVD anniversary performances. Your eloquent description of the movie could have and should have been written by me. I agree with very word you wrote.
      A most marvellous movie event. The ear worms live on ........
      See you at Les Mis

    • the Phantom says:

      01:54pm | 03/01/13

      Well critiqued BAZZ!

    • Chris says:

      04:15pm | 03/01/13

      I think I agree with everything except the final verdict. I gave it 9.5/10. My main criticism being the fact that EVERYTHING is filmed in close-up and there’s rarely a much-needed establishing shot so you don’t really have any idea of where the character is.

    • Bluebell says:

      12:24pm | 03/01/13

      I disagree with the review.  I thought the performances were moving and powerful. Les Miserables is an emotional powerhouse of a story, and I have read the book and seen the musical. Hugh Jackman has a fine voice well suited to musicals and his acting was sensitive. Anne Hathaway was a heartbreaker and her rendition of I dreamed a dream brought tears to my eyes. Whilst Russell Crowe was the weakest singer, his performance as Javert was solid. The younger actors were outstanding. I would give this movie 4/5. For people not used to musicals though, I imagine the lack of dialogue would grate. My husband said he thought it was a quality film but still didn’t enjoy it due to the constant singing.

    • SKA says:

      12:25pm | 03/01/13

      To each their own… I did think Hugh Jackman did a fabulous job and I’ve seen live performances of Les Miserables before so I did have the comparison. Anne Hathaway was also outstanding and I thought Russell was good (I was surprised, I wasn’t expecting him to manage the singing role that well). Though she did a great job, I would have loved to have heard a stronger voice than Amanda Segfried for Cosette but wasn’t a major issue. I thought the singing was much stronger than in other film musicals I’ve seen (the singing in Phantom of the Opera comes to mind. Gerard Butler couldn’t stand up to someone like Michael Crawford, although his acting was good and though sweet, Emmy Rossum was no Sarah Brightman, Marina Prior or Anna O’Byrne (the latest Australian to play Christine… spectacular)). It all really depends on your expectations though. I expected Les Miserables to be gritty and not always perfect because other professional productions I’ve seen were. Anyone else think the same or were many disappointed?

    • Kevin says:

      12:27pm | 03/01/13

      I beg to disagree. Loved it. Want to see it again. Even bought the CD after the movie. Maybe, I’m just a fan(atic).

    • BH says:

      12:31pm | 03/01/13

      Oh my God! Could you and all the other people who reviewed this film complaining about the lack of dialogue please quit your jobs and stop calling yourselves reviewers!

      A reviewer who is actually doing what they are supposed to do weighs the worth of the film against the material that was in it and how well it was portrayed, they don’t criticise a musical for being a musical! And saying you haven’t read the book or seen the stage play is not a valid plea of ignorance - this is an internationally renowned production, which has been around for more than 25 years, and which every fan of the arts should know about by default.

      Now for pity’s sake and before you embarrass yourself any further, take some leave, go rent the dvd, read the book, look up the term “genre” on wikipedia, and get educated - it really won’t take that much effort!

    • Cars says:

      01:55pm | 03/01/13

      Would people who know nothing about arts stop pretending they know more than the experts. You are trolling….
      From Wikipedia “The musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative”.
      Most musicals have some narration or dialouge. He has every right to complain about it having none, as I imagine the story telling suffers for it.

    • Jeff says:

      02:48pm | 03/01/13

      Actually it’s not a musical it’s an opera - where ALL the dialogue is sung.  I’m not a fan of the genre (opera, that is) but at least I recognise the constant singing as hallmark of the genre.
      Criticising Les Mis for singing dialogue is like criticising a western for having horses in it.

    • Cars says:

      03:37pm | 03/01/13

      Except it calls itself “The Musical Phenomenon”, which is misleading, if in fact it is closer to an opera.

    • T says:

      12:35pm | 03/01/13

      Nick, I bet you will get flamed for this. But good on you for giving your own opinion after watching the film.

      But I heard this morning that Russel Crowe admitted the sound (singing) was crap because it was all done live.

      Personally I can’t stand the thought of watching something where people sing every word, I can’t imagine anything worse!

      Thank you for convincing me never to watch this film!

    • adam says:

      12:39pm | 03/01/13

      Are there any car chases in it? Gun fights? Zombies?

    • Anubis says:

      12:50pm | 03/01/13

      The reviewer named the zombies - Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, Baron-Cohen and Bonham Carter.

    • sunny says:

      01:00pm | 03/01/13

      Nah but right at the end of the movie it turns out the chick was really a dude!

    • adam says:

      01:41pm | 03/01/13

      Damnit sunny! now you’ve ruined it for me…..

    • St. Michael says:

      12:44pm | 03/01/13

      On a tangent: if you’d like a nice companion piece to Les Miserables, a prequel if you will, then look up the book “Fiat Money Inflation in France” by Andrew Dickson White, written in 1914.

      Les Miserables opens in 1815.  The White book tells the economic story of the French revolution, being only 20 years earlier: the period 1786 - 1796 or so.

      The significance being that the hyperinflation and price control laws during the French Revolution—down to death penalties for breaking price controls—were largely what left France in the state it was when Les Miserables is set: under Napoleon’s hand, with a massive poverty problem.

      The Revolution created a government bearing some resemblance to the American one, not just street mobs.  They had elections, elected federal legislators, newspapers, speeches, etc. And their speeches and various new laws passed creating and worsening the hyperinflation all sound very much like today’s fiscal cliff, debt-ceiling-increase debates, quantitative easing and all that.  It is quite depressing, albeit enlightening, to read so much similarity between a bunch of French nut cakes guillotining merchants for exceeding price controls—in accordance with their federal laws of the time, and our current federal government politicians refusal to cut spending and increasingly draconian regulation of business.

      Same political bullcrap. Same problem of spending too much. Same notion of “printing” money as a way to create prosperity for all. Same responses to the market’s rejection of the excessively printed money.

      Although Napoleon ended the hyperinflation by refusing to accept any currency but gold or silver, it took 40 years for France to recover from the effects of that revolution and that economic disaster.  Les Miserables is set in the economic ruins of the French Revolution.

      From the Forward of White’s book:

      “Every fetter that could hinder the will or thwart the wisdom of democracy had been shattered, and in consequence every device and expedient of untrammeled power and unrepressed optimism could conceive were brought to bear. But the attempts failed. They left behind a legacy of moral and material desolation and woe, from which one of the most intellectual and spirited races of Europe has suffered for a century and a quarter, and will continue to suffer until the end of time.

      Legislatures are as powerless to abrogate moral and economic laws as they are to abrogate physical laws. They cannot convert wrong into right nor divorce effect from cause, either by parliamentary majorities, or by unity of supporting public opinion. The penalties for such legislative folly will always be exacted by inexorable time.

      A wholesale demoralization of society took place under which thrift, integrity, humanity, and every principle of morality were thrown into the welter of seething chaos and cruelty.”

      White wrote those words in 1914.  They could just about serve as a preface to Victor Hugo’s own Preface to Les Miserables, which was a polemic against poverty.  Translated, White’s words mean this: by passing insane laws—namely those that require you to pretend that worthless money is absolutely worth the same as it was before—you turn the people of the nation into cynics and outlaws with no respect for morality, ethics, or their fellow man. All good flows from favours from the government and all who try to make their lives better based on merit are doomed chumps.

      The reason any of this has any significance is because it’s happening to America now.  More and more stay on unemployment rather than look for work, apply for fraudulent disabilities, demand no cuts in Social Security and Medicare that pay out three times what the beneficiaries paid in, and so on.  Maybe in a hundred years or so some Chinese novelist will write his own “Les Miserables”—maybe he’ll call it “Pobai De”—about the Americans of 2020 or so.

    • Tony777 says:

      12:46pm | 03/01/13

      I understand what the critic found wrong, but perhaps he can only appreciate perfection, and anything else doesn’t rate. In that case, pity about his own writing style. Jackman’s acting was very good, and I thought this film was definitely much better value than the stage show, (for which I paid three times as much to see many years ago), because the storyline was actually understandable, the scenery was rich, and I could actually see the actor’s faces close up, which you can’t on a stage.

    • Chris says:

      12:50pm | 03/01/13

      Have been umming an ahhinh about seeing this film but this reveiw is enough to make up my mind - any likeness of quality to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge is enough for me - couldn’t sit through that - lasted about 5 minutes then asked for my money back (and got it becasue the theatre manager agreed with me - unfortunately I can’t get that wasted 5 minutes back). Maybe I’ll just wait til it comes out on DVD, mute it and enjoy a couple of glasses of vino as I fast forward to the parts with Hugh in it.

    • SAm says:

      01:13pm | 03/01/13

      I could have told you that before you saw it…sounds like a borefest

    • Brett says:

      01:26pm | 03/01/13

      ...because Russ is known for his musical prowess? 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts anyone?

    • Valerie says:

      01:30pm | 03/01/13

      A musical where all the dialogue is sung? What on earth will they think of next? Seriously, that is not a fair complaint at all and makes you sound more than a little ignorant.

      You’re entitled to your opinion, but I just loved it. I love the story, I have seen it on stage multiple times/locations. And for the most part, the movie was fantastic. I won’t rave about Russell Crowe, but he did the best he could with such a limited vocal range (and frankly, it almost suited the character of Javert). Jackman, Hathaway, Seyfried, Barks and Wilkinson were all fantastic, although I knew this about Wilkinson and Barks already as I had been fortunate enough to see both of them on stage (with Wilkinson as Jean Valjean though).

      I must disagree with you about Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. They were the worst thing about the film. Those two characters usually have the audience in fits of laughter throughout their songs, but no one in the cinema I was at even so much as chuckled at the funny lyrics in their songs (I blame exceedingly poor delivery). As someone above said, they were just slimy. I can only guess that they were cast for their fan bases.

      All in all, great film and I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

    • SD says:

      01:34pm | 03/01/13

      I disagree. I’m a Les Mis tragic. I have seen the musical live four or five times, watched the musical on DVD countless times and read the novel. I went to see the film feeling very uncertain about whether I’d love it. When Colm Wilkinson appeared at the start as they bishop, my fears were instantly allayed. Hugh’s acting, Anne Hathaway’s emotion, Amanda Seyfried’s voice contributed to making this exceptional. Even Eddie Redmayne as Marius, typically one of my least favourite of the characters, brought something incredible to the role. To me, Rusty was the weakest link, as Javier is typically such a commanding presence. His voice really didn’t cut it. Hugh’s voice was good or even great with the exception of the high notes (Bring Him Home for example). But the setting, the music, the acting of the leads & the superb singing of the supporting cast made Les Mis 2012 something special.

    • Magpy says:

      01:48pm | 03/01/13

      Does anybody actually know that Hugh Jackman was a singer before he was an actor - he has been in any number of musicals, Sunset Boulevard and Beauty and the Beast to name two and won a Tony for his performance in The Boy From Oz.. To say he is a actor who sings is ridiculous.

    • Sundress In Sydney says:

      02:36pm | 03/01/13

      And Oklahoma (probably spelt wrong).  I kept expecting him to howl as Wolverine, but he didn’t - alas.  I think he is a very good singer actually.  Certainly a better singer than a wolf thing.

    • Keith Hammersmith says:

      02:06pm | 03/01/13

      Stop the presses!  Some guy that is obviously not into musical theater didn’t like Les Mis!!!!!
      Boring article is boring

    • Goldie says:

      02:22pm | 03/01/13

      When I was a child my mother bought me the cartoon version on vhs. Bloody spectacular and no singing whatsoever. I loathe musicals. Thanks mum! That video stopped working eventually and went to story heaven with my thoroughly buggered hardcover Oliver Twist. Pity. Must remember to get copies for my bub.

    • Jen says:

      02:59pm | 03/01/13

      The only people who seem to like it are the les mis stage show tragics, who are obsessive about it and completely lacking in objectivity. They are like a cult. Most of them seem not to have read the book. This film is woeful. If one didn’t already know the story they would have no idea what was going on in this film. Where is the moral dilemma that provides the tension for the whole story and gives all the characters and songs significance? It is completely obscured by a terrible screenplay and awful cinematography. The les mis groupies don’t care because they are just happy to listen to the songs.

      I don’t think the actors did too bad considering and al the singing was fine. In fact, the only performance I didn’t like was Anne Hathway - the chronic over actor. She was laughable. Terrible actress who may well win an Oscar for this but plenty of rubbish actors have won oscars ( e.g. gwyneth Paltrow who has not had a decent role since her win - let’s hope Hathaway also vanishes into obscurity or sticks to musical theatre where stupid facial expressions and over acting are the norm).

    • Jack says:

      03:56pm | 03/01/13

      I object. While somewhat insufferable at the start, Gwyneth was *excellent* at the conclusion of Se7en.

      It’s a role I would like to see her embrace more often.

    • Jennie Gannaway says:

      03:22pm | 03/01/13

      Enjoyed it a lot and am happy to state I too am a Les Mis tragic was worried about how Rusty would be before I went but thought he made a good Javart and Hugh Jackman was great

    • Ben says:

      03:54pm | 03/01/13

      At the insistence of my nearest and dearest, we went.

      Think of the most depressing song you hate being played on a loop for nearly three hours. That pretty much sums it up.

    • cheryl says:

      04:11pm | 03/01/13

      Crap movie. Glee groupies will love it.

    • Kym Marriott says:

      04:13pm | 03/01/13

      For Pete’s sake Nick go and get a real job because you are obviously not a journalist’s, or a critiques’,  well you know the saying. You admit you haven’t read the book or seen the musical,  and by the way musicals are about music, so you comments are not worth the paper they are written on. A good friend of mine gave up journalism as he felt he was only paid to write stuff that was sensational or bad.  Maybe you should take his lead.

    • Kaylee says:

      04:20pm | 03/01/13

      I saw les mis at west end. Really didn’t know much about it except that it had been running for 25 years. At interval I just said wow and have been a tragic ever since. Hugh jackman and les mis in one sentence is enough for me to swoon.

    • Mum says:

      04:44pm | 03/01/13

      If you’re going to write a film review, you might want to save yourself potential embarrassment and actually watch the movie….there is quite a bit of spoken dialogue.

      (Queue the predictable response that the author was making an overstatement to drive home a point….but we know that’s not actually the case wink )


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