Les Miserables Taught Me How to Hate Again

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Last night I went to a showing of Les Miserables. And when I say “went to” I mean “hogtied and dragged at gun point by my wife, her sister and her mom”. By the looks of many of the other men in that crowded overheated theater, I was not the only hostage victim in attendance. In fact I saw one dude commit Hara-kiri while shouting “death before dishonor” in the parking lot prior to the screening. At first I thought he was slightly overreacting. And then the movie started.

I have to say, after watching the entire film, it was actually a thousand times worse than I could have imagined. Les Miserables will stand forever as the most miserable cinematic experience I’ve ever suffered through. And this is coming from a guy who saw “Christmas with the Kranks” in theaters, so that should tell you something.

Let me run through a few points about this excruciating horror show for anyone, especially any man, who has not yet been forced to endure it.

Les Miserables apparently holds the Guinness world record for longest musical about a minor parole violation. It tells the utterly pointless tale of an ex-con as he tries to elude a bumbling parole officer for 20 years. This is also, it should be mentioned, the first film to show two decades pass by in real time. So if you’re heading to the theater tonight make sure to pack a change of clothes. My wife told me afterward that the movie, despite its torturous running time, actually CUT OUT several scenes from the original play. Too bad they didn’t cut out more scenes. Like every scene. Of course it didn’t have to be that long. Hugh Jackman, the criminal guy, could have just, you know, MOVED OUT OF THE FREAKING CITY IF HE DIDN’T WANT TO BE CAUGHT. Instead this whole game of cat-and-mouse between Jackman and Russell Crowe takes place in one neighborhood. The dumbest criminal of the millennium vs. a law enforcement officer that makes every Leslie Nielsen character look like Sherlock Holmes in comparison.

Oh. But it gets worse. Much worse. They sing. Dear God do they sing. They sing EVERYTHING. Look, I know it’s a musical. I get it. I’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof and The Sound of Music and West Side Story. They sing in those films/plays also. But then they break up the musical numbers with normal dialogue. But that’s just too simple and not nearly irritating enough, according to the maniac who wrote this tornado of crap. Every single line in the movie is sung. It doesn’t matter how pedestrian the dialogue, they have to put it to music: “Pass the salt”, “Hang on I gotta take a leak”, etc. All put to song. My sister-in-law cried throughout the whole movie. I cried tears of blissful joy when Russell Crowe threw himself off a bridge at the end because it meant he’d finally stop singing. BUT EVEN THAT DIDN’T STOP HIM. All the dead people had to come back before the credits for one last encore. By the way, Crowe, you’re the guy who played the gladiator but now you will live in infamy as the most awkward casting decision in Hollywood history. You reminded me of someone’s dad who was tossed into the school play at the last minute after his son came down with laryngitis on opening night.

But let’s talk about the “big” musical numbers. You don’t need to buy the soundtrack. I’ll sum up every song in the movie. Here you go: “I’m so lonely, I’m so alone, look at me my life is hard, I’m alone, I’m on my own, there’s this empty chair here, it’s empty because I’m alone, I’m lonely, all this bad stuff has happened to me because of my inexcusably stupid life choices, I’m alone, I feel so alone, on my own, on my own, on my own, did I mention I’m on my oooooowwwwwn?”

Not a dry eye in the house after we heard that one. For the 40th time.

Vapid, shallow, predictable, self indulgent and emotionally manipulative. “BUT IT’S A CLASSIC!” No. No it’s not. Who cares if the play has been around for a while? Malaria has been around for a while. Just because something is old doesn’t make it a “classic”.

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that half the characters in this flick– which is set in France — have an inexplicable limey British chimney sweep accent. That would make sense for Mary Poppins but not this. Incidentally THAT’S a musical I’d sooner watch 5 times in a row before being subjected to another 3 minutes of Les Miserables.

Then, two thirds of the way through the movie, we get the obligatory tragic love story. Here’s how it goes: a young French revolutionary spots a blonde chick across the street. The two lock eyes and literally THAT NIGHT the dumb desperate loser is singing about how he’d “die for her”. Really? And I’m supposed to become psychologically invested in a plot device that has just reduced the beauty, joy, pain and sacrifice of romantic love to something you can catch like a cold or fall into like a puddle? I know Hollywood has been peddling that nonsense for ages but this was simply too much to cope with.

To make matters worse we’re all supposed to be super impressed because the songs (and by “songs” I mean “every single word uttered during the course of the entire picture”) are performed live instead of being recorded in a studio and dubbed into the film. “GEE WOW I’M SO ENAMORED WITH YOUR ARTISTIC INTEGRITY”. Is that the reaction I’m supposed to have? I don’t know because my initial reaction was something like “Man, this sounds awful”. Instead of lip syncing pre-recorded songs, the actors sputtered out of key while choking back tears and gasping for breath. It was like listening to someone sing karaoke while being chased by a swarm of African killer bees. Coincidentally, that is the actual premise of a reality show on TruTV. Except that show likely has more depth and intelligence. I don’t care if the “let’s do it live” move was “revolutionary”. Not all revolutions are good. Just ask France.

I could go on. But I won’t. I hated Les Miserables with a violent passion. Let’s leave it at that.

And at this: my wife now has to watch four mob movies, three war movies and two History Channel documentaries with me.

That’s the exchange rate.

Sorry, honey, I don’t make the rules. But I will enforce them.

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914 Responses to Les Miserables Taught Me How to Hate Again

  1. CharlesG says:

    I don’t think you paid close attention to the plot, because Jean Valjean does move to a different town, twice.

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  3. Jen says:

    I made the mistake of *trying* to read this book (the unabridged version too, to make things worse!) for a book report back in high school. I am a voracious reader, and I still couldn’t finish the thing. I still did the book report, I just recommended NOT reading it. What torture!

  4. Ken moore says:

    While I agree with your review and general sentiments, a word or two on style: 1) Don’t overdo your faux manic/righteous anger pose. It’s been done. A lot. 2) Learn how to punctuate if you’re going to continue to write in the English language. Commas, periods, and other punctuation marks go inside the quotation marks, not outside.

    Finally, if you’re over sixteen years of age and are still being told where to go and what to do, have your testicles surgically removed.

  5. mc1171611 says:

    “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” ~Mark Twain

  6. Lily says:

    all the time i used to read smaller articles or reviews which also clear their motive, and
    that is also happening with this paragraph which I am reading here.

  7. As I sit here at work, Les Mis just came on tv and I almost instantly began wondering why it’s so beloved. I found this blog post instead. I’ve given up trying to find out why it’s enduring. I’m with you. LOL. Singing it live as they performed interested me, but not enough for the stupid singing of non-melodic, non-rhyming throw away dialog. Glad to now I’m not alone.

  8. Tiffany says:

    Hmmm…perhaps you should just stick to the non-singing, Liam Neeson version of the movie. It’s still a great story—all about Law and Grace. I loved the book, but I also had a friend tell me beforehand all the underlying spiritual representations, so that made it not just bearable, but absolutely beautiful in the end. Had I not known that all beforehand, though, I would have hated it as much as you hated the musical. But hey, consider yourself lucky, because the first time I saw the musical was at a high school performance, and not even Russell Crowe could be more awkward than that.

    • Robert Blenheim says:

      Don’t waste your time with the Leon Nessom version. The one to watch is the 1924 five hour masterpiece directed by Raymond Bertrand. It’s available from NetFlix..

  9. Mitch Fewell says:

    FYI… The singing was heavily edited. It may have been recorded live, but what you hear in the movie has been tweaked beyond reality. :)

  10. Alan Jenkins says:

    I thank God I am not alone in this opinion… by the way, I wondered about the chirpy cockney Parisian accents as well, and thought them very strange – and I’m a cockney myself!
    What a pile of steaming ordure this was. It’s Papillon meets The Great Escape, without the benefit of Steve McQueen and bereft of humour.

  11. Lindsay says:

    I’m incredibly pleased to have found this. I just watched the movie to say I had done it once, expecting to despise it. As someone who adores musicals, it drove me batty that the accents were wrong, most of the “songs” had no actual tune (I mean, what did they say, “Oh, here are some words. Pick some notes and have at it” ??), and disappointing casting. It would be an incredibly safe bet to say I’ll never be watching it again.

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  13. Tom Way says:

    Just gave the Blu Ray of this for my fiancee and, of course, we needed to watch it immediately. My fault, entirely, but whatryagonnado, amirite? She couldn’t wait, just like when we went to the theater on Christmas Day. And perhaps more so than when I first found your piece early this year, it reminded me that there were many good reason why I was so miserable for the past 2 hours. This is one of my favorite writing pieces on the web, right up there with Demetri Martin’s “Who Am I?” piece from The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/02/28/110228sh_shouts_martin). Nice work, sir!

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  16. thank you for this one… whenever i am in the doldrums.. i just go to the archive part of your blog, choose something… click… read.. and immediately… i am smiling.. nodding my head and thank God for a beautiful day… thank you.. dear Matt….jean sullivan

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    What?

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    “freetranslation.com” comes out with gibberish. I tried both types of Chinese and Japanese. What does it mean?

  20. Fred Ford says:

    Went to the play in London with my wife a few years ago. An hour in, with my head tucked between my knees, I looked to my right and locked eyes with another poor bastard about six seats down in the same position. We just slowly shook our heads. The worse crap I have EVER been subjected to. Loved your blog on it! The only thing that came close to sucking that hard was a community theater presentation of “Cats.”

  21. Good article. I will be experiencing many of these issues as well..

  22. Y. Prior says:

    Hi – well I know this post is old, but I just found a link to it- and I have two replies. First – your Lew Mis review was well written and you had me laughing so much. Great humor. And second, and please hear me on this – at some point in your life you need to go and get the book – the unedited version preferably – and take some time to pour into Victor Hugo’s work. These movie adaptations – and even though Broadway may be better – they still do not do this book any justice. My husband and I used to give away the thick copies of this book to very special people – and every one of them has later come back to thank us. But reading the book is an adventure and has just some amazing layered connections – so please just put it on your list of books to read in the course of your lifetime. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

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    • Robert Blenheim says:

      What the hell are you writing about? Does this have ANYTHING to do with “Les Miserables?” Send this moronic stuff where it belongs!

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  25. Danielle says:

    YOU ARE AWESOME! The only person who has ever been able to understand my sheer disgust for the movie! Oh my! And make it so hilarious! My sides ache with laughter!

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