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

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2012

Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman
Universal Pictures

Fans will argue the trims and additions, but should be happy that the beloved numbers are intact: "At the End of the Day," "Lovely Ladies," "Castle on a Cloud," "On My Own," "Stars," "One Day More," "Master of the House," "A Little Fall of Rain," "In My Life," "A Heart Full of Love," "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "Drink With Me," "Bring Him Home" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."

How these songs are realized by Hooper (who is passionate about woozy camera angles and extreme close-ups, as previously demonstrated in his TV miniseries "John Adams") will stir much debate among the musical's diehard fans. Are the songs "opened up" and "filmic" enough? Do the renditions hew too closely to the original? Do they stray too far away? Do they move, physically? Where the heck did the joyous wedding dance go? Why did they cut Thenardier's sewer song? (Wait, that was one of the good cuts!)

I personally missed a favorite reveal that happens in a bit of the recit/verse to "A Little Fall of Rain." It's absolutely not necessary on film, but it's a moment I've always loved on stage for reasons I can't explain. Cradling his stricken friend at the barricade, Marius sings:

Eponine, what's wrong?
There's something wet upon your hair.
Eponine, you're hurt, you need some help —
Oh, God, it's everywhere!

Yes, it's prosaic and redundant, visually, but when I first saw him peel back her jacket to reveal her covered in blood, I got chills. I still do, just thinking about it.