Possibly, it is too much of a good thing, like the last piece of pizza, third glass of wine, fourth chocolate chip cookie but after seeing the play twice, listening and loving the sound track through the decades, I could not muster the enthusiasm, expressed by the masses for the spectacular film version of “Les Miz”. It was too long, too dark, and I was incapable of taking the fantastical leap of accepting Russell Crowe as the tenacious, “Inspector Javert”, with his every stiffly -sung note, I had a difficult time stifling, laughter.
Director Tom Hooper spared no expense in recreating 19th century France: dingy, dark alleys; detritus, filth spewed from windows, mud-caked streets, domicile of the destitute, unwanted, hopeless. Anne Hathaway, gifted with superior vocal powers, depicts “Fantine” who falls into this uncensored, tormented population; she sells her lustrous, dark mane of hair and eventually her body to salvage her daughter “Cosette” from a likely, predictable fate; housed by rapacious innkeepers, the “Thenardiers” (supercilious, excessively cloying performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).
Hugh Jackman is “Jean Valjean”, prisoner turned model citizen, unremittingly chased by Javert; the film flounders in portraying the intense animosity, seething rivalry, and terror author Victor Hugo, intended. Jackman, an immensely talented actor, sings, crawls and bleeds for almost three anguishing hours.
The brightest characters and strongest singers are Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne as the adult “Cosette” and lothario, idealist “Marius”; their love songs, a shard of light, temporarily shattering the deadly gloom, excessively heavy black veil, cloaking the tumultuous , frustrating, fruitless times of revolutionary France.
At the finale, the audience clapped, cried and cheered as the protagonists marched and sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” My sentiments when I first saw the play in London; no longer a neophyte, just sad that “Les Miserables”, resonated staleness, failing to ignite or enflame my imagination, probably tainted by contemporary times; jaded by reality and haunted by the prospect of history cyclically, perpetually repeating itself.