I started a link roundup but by the time I was two hours into surveying my Google Reader, the post had morphed into a rant as long as Les Misérables running time (which I'm about to indulge in again). It began with these three links:
Antagony & Ecstasy ooh, a list right up our alley: ten best adaptations of stage musicals, to celebrate the release of Les Miz. Interesting disqualifying comments on Cabaret
Slate "I Dreamed a Tween" Excellent excellent piece on Les Misérables' appeal to tweens and its long hold on its young fans once they've grown up
Advocate And another essay on our long histories with this particular musical phenomenon.
All of which are Pro Les Miz so buyers beware.
As y'all know I've been quite touchy about this film. More...
I think a lot of the vindictive response to Tom Hooper's adaptation of the theatrical phenomenon is a part and parcel of two traditions I tend to despise. The annual act of scapegoating at least one Expected Oscar Player each year bugs me because no film deserves ALL the bile that people store up for the complicated moodswings that hit us all during the holidays. This is not to say that films don't sometimes deserve harsh reviews just that it's pretty easy to see the "pile on" effect in summer and Christmas movie season where one film will sort of become target practice as if everyone is suddenly embarrassed about gushing over all the others and finds a mutual target to bully). And I'm on record regularly as being dismayed by the huge swaths of the population (in the critical community and elsewhere) that raise all their cynical shackles up in the vicinity of the emotionally epic often earnest territory of Musical Theater (If the emotions weren't big, why would anyone be singing?).
I was at a dinner party earlier this week with a good number of gays present and one of them asked, sincerely, if anyone was going to Les Misérables on Christmas?
I wanted to see it but then I heard it was just atrocious."
"Atrocious!". Sigh. This is what I mean about scapegoating. No way in hell is that movie any worse that "Problematic" as adjectives go and I think it's better than that word implies, too. Some people will hate the movie and some will love it and either reaction is just fine. But the conversation has been ridiculously poisonous. That makes going in with an open heart difficult and open hearts are required when approaching musicals, no joke.
I asked him where he'd heard that and he said 'oh I was just reading some reviews.' The room suddenly turned to me -- aware that I was some sort of movie guy -- and the questions started flying. I was disappointed that the critical bile had already permeated a generally musical-loving community (some stereotypes being true) and I worried about the box office. But I worry too much. Les Miz took the crown with $18 million -- a very strong Christmas Day -- beating Django Unchained and The Hobbit. I had long expected Les Misérables to be a $100+ million hit (like Chicago & Hairspray) but the bile from certain corners of the internet surprised me with its devout fervor -- hating Les Miz being the new online religion!
I'm fully aware that box office means nothing in terms of quality as each weekend's charts regularly attest but box office does mean something in terms of future film production and if Les Miz can make a lot of bank whilst being a proudly dramatic musical (it's the first musical in some time to not pretend it's anything other than a musical in its advertisements, thank god!) it paves the way for more musicals to go into production and that's the Dream I always Dream.
If there's a bright side to the extreme negativity greeting Les Misérables in some parts, I hope it's this: Maybe Hollywood will notice the reviews (ha!) and stop casting people who lack the musical gift (Bonham-Carter, Crowe) in musicals and notice that people who have it (Hathaway, Redmayne, Jackman) are the ones people actually love to see singing! Go figure. [/Les Tangent]