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

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2012

Anne Hathaway
Universal Pictures

Famous as a sung-through "pop-opera" with soul-searching soliloquies, anthems, ballads and love duets, the 3-hour-and-15-minute stage show (later trimmed to 3 hours) features only a few spoken words ("General Lamarque is dead!," "It's a runaway cart!," etc.), with prosaic recitative as connective tissue. The filmmakers — including producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and the show's original producer and continuing steward Cameron Mackintosh — had many discussions about the shape of the film's musicality, producer Hayward, of Working Title Films, told me.

Cut the recitative and just keep The Big Numbers? Turn the recit into spoken word? Inject the major songs into a more traditional historical screenplay?

In the end, what's on screen is basically a filmed version of the show we know, with internal cuts in verses, recit and songs — though there is still more recit than perhaps an average moviegoer wants to hear in a 157-minute film (the final running time).

There are also a few additions, for storytelling, clarity and gap-filling, including an Oscar-eligible new number called "Suddenly," a song for Valjean as he whisks his new daughter away from the Thenardiers in a coach — this Valjean sings a lot as he rides in horse-drawn carriages (he's stuck in one through "One Day More"). The topic of "Suddenly" is his new role as father to the child Cosette. (Here's a video feature about its intent.)

Also added: When Javert takes a post as new chief of police in Montreuil-sur-Mer, where Valjean is Mayor Madeleine, he presents himself to his boss, in song.