STAGE TO SCREENS: Looking at Les MisÚrables Through a New Lens; Recapping the Movie

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2012

Jackman in "Les Misérables."
Universal Pictures

If the film musical revolution didn't happen after "Grease" became a smash in 1978 (spawning "Grease 2," alas), it's not going to happen now. Even if "Les Miz," directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), breaks box office records the way, say, "Titanic" and "Avatar" did, don't expect multiple instant green-lights to film adaptations of the stage musicals Into the Woods, Once On This Island, Ragtime, Company — all of them worthy of the leap. (My personal favorite idea that I am putting out in the universe is Steven Spielberg directing the epic Show Boat.).

Certainly a smashzilla "Les Miz" film would strengthen the potential for a screen version of Miss Saigon, the hit musical by the same writers (Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg), but that's another story.

Musicals are niche pix. Period. But, when they shine, they shine. And we who believe in the power of songs that tell stories will be there, with popcorn in hand, hoping for the best. Hoping for something better than "Annie."

Which leads us to "Les Misérables," which has a screenplay credited to William Nicholson ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Nell" and the Oscar-nominated "Shadowlands" and "Gladiator") and the 1985 London show's original writers Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg (the composer) and English lyricist Herbert Kretzmer.

The following column includes spoilers, so if you have not seen the movie, and want to be surprised, you're reading the following at your own risk.