By Fred Harvey
The History Place
Well, you've seen the musical, now here's the
big non-musical movie and I must admit I found it painfully boring.
Les Misérables is the classic Victor Hugo
story of mean spirited Inspector Javert vs. the kindly Jean Valjean, set
in early 1800's Paris amid the aftermath of the French Revolution. Valjean
was imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released
on parole then attempts to begin a new life against all kinds of obstacles,
including the obsessive-compulsive Javert. Throw in miscellaneous characters
including an orphan girl and rebellious students etc.
Sounds great, right? But this movie has two big
problems, namely the one dimensional acting performance of Liam Neeson
as Valjean and Director Bille August's dull style of film making - a throwback
to pre-MTV brain days. This is old fashioned snail's pace story telling
with big scenery and schmaltzy 'historical' music. After about an hour
of this I was ready for a snooze, and the film is well over two hours long.
To help relieve the boredom I recommend you quietly
hum the songs from the musical at the appropriate times during the film.
Mr. Neeson, by the way, has a tendency to mumble
the end of his lines making them annoyingly unintelligible. This guy also
needs to sit in front of a mirror and work on some more facial expressions.
Expression A - really sad. Expression B - not so sad, etc.
Throughout the film while suffering the slings
and arrows of crummy misfortune, he wears the same dumb wounded expression
which the director hangs on too long during numerous sad moments. The result
is a film that simply bores and ultimately fails to involve us emotionally
in the plight of the people on screen. And too often, they look like they're
acting. In fact, several times I swear I could see Neeson trying to figure
out what to do next within the scene.
Steven Spielberg made good use of him in Schindler's
List. But Spielberg had a lot of stuff going on around him and obviously
didn't need him to carry the flick, which is needed here.
Les Misérables does have a couple of fine
points. Australian actor Geoffrey Rush as Inspector Javert is quite enjoyable.
I found myself wishing the screenplay could have been from his point of
view. I wanted to see more of him. And the sets and scenery, filmed on
location in the Czech Republic and Paris, do look great.