Samantha Barks in Celia Kritharioti

Posted on March 26, 2013

Boy, Taylor Swift is going to be pissed someone got to this dress before she did.


Samantha Barks at the Jameson Empire Awards 2013 in a sleveless dress by Greek designer Celia Kritharioti paired with Jimmy Choo shoes.

Celia Kritharioti Spring 2012 Collection

It’s … just okay. It certainly couldn’t be any more standard than it is. We just wish she’d worn some more fun shoes. That would have done a lot to bump up the interest in the look. Otherwise, we’re pretty bored. But don’t worry, darlings! We totally chose these pictures because we need an excuse to talk about Les Miserables, which we finally got around to seeing this weekend! Aren’t you lucky!

Okay, the first thing you should know is that Lorenzo burst out laughing about ten minutes into the movie, said, “I can’t,” and walked off. Over the next two-and-a-half hours, he would occasionally return to the couch, watch a few more minutes, burst out laughing, and then leave again. Tom stuck it out, but there was groaning involved.

There. Now that you know that, you should be prepared. If you can’t handle an anti-Les Miz sentiment, now’s your last chance to turn back, darlings.

Still with us? Here we go. We can’t say we’re what anyone would call huge fans of the play. We’d both seen it, more than once, well over a decade ago. Lorenzo is a classical violinist, so he tends to be quite snobbish about music and he finds the songs in Les Miz to be largely unlistenable and atonal. Tom isn’t quite so rough on the songs, although he admits there really are only two or three very good ones in the play, with most of the rest being either banal and inoffensive, or hitting the ear like a cat’s claw tearing through tin foil. Having said that, Tom always thought the play was perfectly suited for film and that it could make a perfect movie musical because bombast and melodrama  tend to play well on a big screen, if you’ve got the right cast.

Speaking of the cast, we have no issue with any of the choices and we think everyone deserves a tip of the hat for so clearly working their asses off.

But that’s the problem. We could so clearly see the cast working their asses off. Director Tom Hooper made the decision to shoot the cast members singing their songs live (instead of lip-synching to a pre-recorded track), arguing that it would give the film more intimacy and allow the actors to focus on their feelings, rather than worrying about whether their lips match up with the recording. It was an interesting idea, but for us, a spectacular failure. There wasn’t one song that wasn’t ruined by an actor straining so hard to hit their notes while sobbing or screaming or running. Hell, Eddie Redmayne couldn’t even sit in a chair and sing a ballad about his dead friends without every single vein in his head threatening to erupt and spew blood all over the camera.

Yes, it’s true that watching the play means we’re watching actors sing live, but they’re fairly far away from even the best seats in the house. Hooper, quite oddly, chose to keep the camera mere inches from most of the characters’ faces as they sang, letting us see every snot bubble, straining vein, and bloodshot eye. The argument in favor of this technique is probably Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” which really was engrossing in a horrifying kind of way. She deserved an Oscar nom for the performance, but we didn’t love the technique used.

In fact, our entire criticism of the film comes down to two simple choices: the live recording of the songs, and the extreme close-ups on the actors as they sang, removing them from the context of a scene and pretty much doing away with a need for a chorus. It was, to us, a musical that didn’t seem to like musicals much, choosing to focus on the acting to the detriment of the singing and the dancing (which was practically non-existent). For us, truly good musicals depict acting through singing and dancing. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but Hooper clearly thought he had to make a choice. Musical numbers are there to depict a character’s state of mind. It’s a form of emotional metaphor. In a classic movie musical, if a character is sad, she sings a sad song and the audience knows that she’s sad without the need to have her weep. It’s understood that we’re seeing her emotional state from the inside and we don’t necessarily need to see external displays of emotion to understand what she’s feeling. That’s how musicals are constructed. It’s the entire point to them. Everyone’s allowed to ignore the conventions for their own vision, but Hooper’s vision was a dull bore to us.

Oh, and just to bring it back around, Samantha was a standout in the cast because she has the best voice and tried her best to keep her voice as her central instrument and not her somewhat lacking acting skills. She couldn’t weep on cue, but the girl could sell the hell out of a song, and in a musical, that’s far more important to us.


[Photo Credit: Getty,]

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  • Everything you said. Forever and ever, amen.

    Fashion-wise, I am currently helping a friend shop for cocktail-length semi-casual wedding dress, and I have seen approximately 800 carbon copies of that dress during the search. Dull, but forgivable.

  • lobsterlen

    Tutus and First Holy Communion dresses are trend now?


    As to the film, I haven’t seen it and T.Lo’s critique makes me not want to!

  • Tom Hooper was the absolute wrong choice for directing a musical to movie. His obsession with close-ups does not serve the actors nor the absolutely beautiful sets well. I am a classical violinist myself as well as a theatre junkie and actually have the opposite opinion on the songs in that I think they are more musical than a lot of stuff out there.
    I find Eddie Redmayne adorable so I can forgive him the frog voice (bless his heart) but I cannot pass on Amanda Seyfreid. She acted the hell out of what the role of Cosette gave her, but her voice is so irritating that I find it hard to listen to.
    The person I was surprised to dislike was Hugh Jackman. He’s an incredibly accomplished stage actor but I think the close-up acting that Hooper required somehow pushed his voice beyond what it has the capacity for and the whole thing suffered for that.
    Anyway, tl;dr for Sam Banks is a cutie and this dress is boring but serviceable.

    • Tatiana Luján

      I think Amanda’s voice is beatiful.

      • Each to their own. Her vibrato is way out of control.

        • l v

          I agree about the vibrato. I’m not really sure I understand why her vibrato starts basically the second the note comes out of her month. In general, I think she’s adorable and pretty tolerable on screen (hello hair envy!) but I wish she would stop singing. I even felt like she took half the silly joy out of the Mamma Mia songs – and how do you take fun out of ridiculous pop songs from Abba? Come on now.

          • I quite like her as an actress, but she needs some heavy voice training if she is going to be singing. Her voice isn’t BAD, per se, it’s just way undertrained for these big singing roles. I saw an article where she said she would love to do broadway, but she knew she would have to undergo at least a full year of vocal training, so it appears that she is aware of it as well. She has a great range, she just needs to learn how to control it better.

          • l v

            The fact that she knows it is definitely good to hear – she does seem like a pretty realistic girl whenever I read articles about her. I could see her having a very pretty voice after some training… I think it’s just that excessive vibrato that grates on my ears. I do still think she’s adorable in general. My friends and I have decided she looks like a Disney princess come to life – exaggeratedly (is that an acceptable word?) large eyes and lips, flowing hair… I swear somebody drew her in existence sometimes.

        • alyce1213

          That wasn’t vibrato, that was a shaky, weak little voice.

  • Introspective

    Im bored with this dress, and the styling is a double shot of meh.

    but I did hear she has a lovely voice. like Stella Z, I havent seen the movie, and probably I wont be after this scathing review.

  • As a big fan of the play, I had high hopes for the movie, but found it so jumpy, over-edited and with such mud-filled sound that it was a joyless experience. I felt sorry for anyone who’d never seen the play. They probably never will now.

    • Violina23

      When we got home, I played some of the 25th anniversary concert ( from PBS) for my husband so he could see the difference for himself. It felt kind of cathartic, after a movie that took itself WAY too seriously

    • Billie_Dawn

      Seriously, that movie won an Oscar for its sound. That is MIND-BLOWING to me. The orchestrations sounded like absolute crap, and I don’t care how much publicity the live singing got, it just sounded bad. Are people really willing to give a pass to bad singing and horrible sound just because “it’s real”? Jesus wept.

  • Why, oh why didn’t she keep the pink wig from the model?!?!? That would have made it.

    • Tee hee….I thought the same thing. Hell, it’s better than what is going on with her own hair.

    • I agree! I agree! She’d look like a beautiful truffula tree!

    • Jacqueline Wessel

      Yes, the pink hair would have been perfect.

  • I read a review that had her as the low point of the film, which confused me before her performance was the most touching one to me (even beating Anne Hathaway, because I couldn’t get over the “I did it all in one take, bitches” YouTube clip)

    • Sobaika

      That spoof was the best thing to come out of this year’s awards season.

      • Violina23

        Don’t forget Forbidden Broadway: They revived an old Les Miz. parody and then reshot it in the style of the new movie. Google it, it’s hysterical! ( I’d link, but I’m on my phone)

        • Just looked it up. Very funny! I’m a “Forbidden Broadway” fan from way back, anyway. Alessandrini is a genius.

    • Diego!

      I agree. She was the best of that mediocre film (not because it was poorly shot, it was poorly played)

  • I’ve never been attracted to Les Mis and after trusting the Uncles, I doubt I ever will.

    The dress here is standard cute. The hair, is horrible.

  • YAY for calling it like it is on Les Miz. I saw the musical on Broadway years ago and was singularly underimpressed at the time; seeing the movie did nothing to change that impression. A musical has an insurmountable problem when it’s burdened by banal and repetitive music. It’s a great story, which is clearly why the novel has remained in print all these years, but a yawner of a musical entertainment. Annie getting the Oscar for what was essentially a 5 minute closeup in a 200-minute movie is, as Groucho Marx once said, “The biggest robbery since Brinks”.

    Oh, and the dress? I don’t understand. Why would a celebrity agree to wear a communion dress to an event sponsored by an alcohol company? Yes, I see they are movie awards, but still, that’s a pretty big disconnect.

    • By biggest issue with the musical play, was the number of times the ridiculously complex set got its own applause. Nothing is a surer indicator of major problems if some single aspect of a production does this. Good theater, and good film should work seamlessly. The film too has some of these same issues.

      • ballerinawithagun

        Yes, that set! Just get on with it and march or die on stage. Then there was Phantom. Slept through most of it. Woke up for the chandelier as it came creeping and creaking down in slow motion and they couldn’t get out of the way???

    • another_laura

      As for the dress, it is a Jameson event – the Irish Whiskey makers? Nothing says Irish whiskey like communion dresses on grown women….

    • alyce1213

      Ditto, ditto, ditto . . . (especially the Groucho Marx line).

  • Sobaika

    I disagree on one point – I don’t think Les Mis would work as a movie, ever. Great novel and musical, but not as a film. There’s simply too much going on, too many characters, too many ‘moments’ we’re meant to dwell on right before flipping past 8 years, the historical/political aspects, etc. Even at its best it would be an okay adaptation rather than a great film. I do give Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway a lot of credit though – they’re the only reasons to sit through the movie. Also maybe HBC and SBC.

    Samantha Barks had the best voice but it was clear she isn’t that much best actress (I might be nitpicky because Lea Salonga will always be my ultimate Eponine). And can we all please take a moment to discuss the terribly miscast Russell Crowe.

    • Love Lea Salonga. Alas, she’s grown out of playing Eponine.

      • MissAmynae

        She moved to Fantine 🙂

    • Diego!

      yeah but she is way more talented than Amanda Seyfried. Amanda can’t act NOR sing!

  • And you didn’t mention the worst offense… RUSSELL CROWE AS JAVERT! HORRID!

  • That dress is twee as fuck and if the styling isn’t campy or interesting then a grown ass woman shouldn’t be wearing it.
    I had no desire to see Le Mis, the Oscar buzz almost had me changing my mind. I’m glad I didn’t.

  • l_c_ann

    We had seen Les Miz twice (we were living in major cities and subjected to touring companies) and then heard it miked correctly and it was an “ah, ha” moment.

    The bits and pieces I’ve heard from this have left me waiting for a reason to see it. I know what it can sound like; it does seem to have missed.

    (I have loved Sweeney Todd for at least three decades and we saw a version that was so bad that it made me forget the ones I had loved. I fear this Miz may do the same thing.)

    • MK03

      Was it the godawful Tim Burton film? Because that one actively pissed me off too. Once again, everyone went out of their way to half-ass it.

  • CakesOnAPlane

    You had absolutely no objections to the casting? You didn’t notice that Russel Crowe has an absolute inability to sing and act at the same time (you can consistently see him choosing one or the other)

    • Did you miss the several paragraphs about how it was a mistake to make the cast members act and sing at the same time?

      • CakesOnAPlane

        No, I read that. I just think the choice to cast him was particularly bad, especially if that was the direction that they intended in going. His ineptitude just stuck out to me in particular.

        • Crowe can sing; he just doesn’t have experience with this kind of music. Given the same role and the chance to pre-record his tracks, we think he would have been just fine, if not very good. We liked his casting because physically, he made for a nice counterpart to Jackman and can do that sort of obsessive, imposing thing quite well with his body language. But his acting performance suffered because you could see how deeply uncomfortable he was trying to act and sing at the same time and his singing suffered because he’s not trained to that kind of singing live. We spent most of the film feeling bad for him, which is pretty much the exact opposite emotion any audience member should be feeling about Javert.

          • Oh, and we both burst out laughing at his death scene. That loud *THUNK* pretty much summed up the complete lack of finesse in this movie.

          • Emily Giovanni

            That is exactly my thought as well. My friend and I were excited about this movie but couldn’t have been more horrified by it throughout the movie. That “thunk” and the accompanying visual was the moment we finally made eye contact in the dark theater and had to stifle our laughter for a long time (the rest of the movie) so as not to detract from the surrounding folks’ clear enjoyment. God I can’t believe how awful it was.

          • lrober03

            For me, his acting and singing drew me out of watching the movie because I was so aware of how uncomfortable Russell Crowe was making me. As a result of that (and not having any knowledge of the plot), his death surprised me because I hadn’t gotten any real understanding of the character and his emotions and journey thoughout the movie

          • CakesOnAPlane

            exactly; to me, it seemed like every time he remembered that he should be trying to sing well, his face just went blank. And Javert is supposed to be emotionally twisted and conflicted and all that, so when he jumps into the river it just seemed like a random thing to do, a opposed to a result of emotional torture.

          • I liked the movie but that THUNK made my mum jump and so I spent the next few minutes trying to stifle my laughter, which wasn’t really the reaction they were going for, I suspect.

          • RedRaven617

            I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who felt like laughing. I was in a theater (just last night), and even though I saw it coming, that sound…. I’m still laughing. TLo I think your analysis is perfect. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

          • Boy, that’s the truth. In fact, the sound on the whole movie was annoyingly intrusive.

          • MK03

            Which makes it all the more shocking that it won a damn Oscar for sound. My favorite Twitter reaction: “If you can’t make Russell Crowe sing on key, you don’t deserve an Oscar for sound editing.”

          • That quote should be posted somewhere prominent. Too funny! Thanks!

          • alyce1213

            That plunge was my (only) favorite part.

          • Jennifer L.

            Yes! I erupted in the middle of the movie theater when he clunked, then swirled down the drain. Fortunately, it was New Year’s Eve, which meant there were exactly three other people there with me and the hubs.

          • I found that crunching sound wildly and offensively gratuitous, which as you said, a good summary of the movie’s overall lack of finesse. A relatively decent plot and decent songs ruined by bad directing, IMHO.

          • Violina23

            But that’s why he shouldn’t have been cast…. totally the wrong kind of voice for the role. A lot of the other casting, they might not have been my choice, but I was mostly forgiving for the same reasons you mentioned.

            I grew up listening to this musical, so I have a soft spot for it, despite the pandering nature of the songs & storytelling. But the extreme closeups were jarring ( you think it was bad on tv, imagine it on a movie screen, I felt myself pulling back in my chair), and it was just draining to sit through. There’s an intermission in the show for a reason! Granted, I was in the first trimester of pregnancy, but I felt fatigued watching something I should have been thoroughly enjoying.

          • I thought Russell Crowe was one of the more believable cast members, for what that’s worth, despite the plunk. Oh, and I like this look on Samantha – very fresh and spring-ish.

          • Although I’m in the minority here (LOVED it) — I cracked up when I read your ” But the extreme closeups were jarring ( you think it was bad on tv,
            imagine it on a movie screen, I felt myself pulling back in my chair),
            and it was just draining to sit through. There’s an intermission in
            the show for a reason!” Although NOT pregnant, we got there too late (2nd day, after all) to sit anywhere but the 3rd row & I kept asking my husband: “Aren’t they gonna have an intermission?” because the tension on screen was matched by the muscles in my weirdly flexed neck & back. Which finally settled down after 3 days.

            I agree w/you about Russell Crowe & I, too, like TLo, ended up weirdly feeling empathy/sympathy for Javert. I did not know why I loved Samantha B but I was SO drawn to her in every scene & hope that TLo will keep showing her fashion choices. She was the only thing about the movie that made me rush to my computer to look up her history/bio.

            But Still: I. Love. Les Mis. Still trying to finish the book. (longer than a dictionary & a bit too intellectual for my literary expertise) At least I made it 1/3rd way though this time.

          • Violina23

            I think Javert (as depicted in the musical) is *meant* to be a somewhat sympathetic character in a tragic way, because he is so driven by his undying faith in God and the rule of law, that he can’t see the grey area between good & evil, right & wrong. He KNOWS in his heart that ValJean is not a bad man, but his whole world falls apart if he begins to break down even a BIT from what he’s built his whole life upon.

            So I thought Russell Crowe tried his best, and I feel kinda bad for the fact that everyone ragged on him, but he was really not right for the role, and it really did take away from & almost made a joke out of a relationship that should be really poignant in the story. (And yes, that big loud THUNK made it even worse! Talk about filmmakers having ZERO faith in their audience to figure out that he was killing himself)

            I still love Les Miz too 🙂 I recognize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK. Don’t think the movie much helped its case, though, with the general public 😛

          • funny, i just watched this over the weekend, too, and i couldn’t agree more with your opinion. i felt so bad for russell crowe in particular.

            also, i got really tired of the one way that hugh jackman seems capable of singing — i.e., belting. “bring him home” should not be shouted, right?

            samantha was the stand out to me, too, and not just because i spent my entire adolescence walking around my tiny hometown, singing “on my own” …

          • agreed. he wasn’t the best, but i was feeling bad for the RC hatred.

          • alyce1213

            Crowe sings in a rock band. A voice is not necessarily required for that, but appreciated. He was indeed WAY out of his league with this material and should not have been cast. Someone should have known better.

          • The difference between other actors and Crowe is that they are singers who can act while he is an actor who sings on the side. He was a perfect Javert until he opened his mouth. The is no power behind his songs which Javert completely needs. That said Samantha Banks was literally plucked off the Broadway stage for her roll which explains her beautiful singing voice.

        • CarolinLA

          He was so miscast that I didn’t vote for that ensemble for the SAG awards because of him. Javert is such a meaty role that both the London and NY actors were nominated alongside Colm Wilkinson as lead actors. That’s what I wanted. The central conflict of the story was missing because Crowe was not up to the job.

      • Tatiana Luján

        What do you guys think of the Les Miserables movie made in 1998?

        • CakesOnAPlane

          they cut out Eponine! I remember being crestfallen about that after watching it.

    • His voice was just so wrong for Javert. His acting was ok, but singing. OyVey!

  • gabbilevy

    You guys had the identical reaction I did, except I saw it on opening night and had really high hopes.

    I don’t love Les Mis, but I love musicals and I was really hopeful that the positive press around this film would lead to a resurgence of adaptations. As it is, I’m jumping out of my skin with excitement over the Anna Kendrick/Jeremy Jordan adaptation of The Last Five Years, but unlike Les Mis, I really will be crushed if they screw that one up.

  • Little_Olive

    Oh, THANK YOU. I am not even going to try to sit and watch that grandiloquent mix of (supposed) overachievers.

    I actually hate most musicals (The Sound of Music being a remarkable exception) and hate it when people assume you have the sensitivity of a serial killer for that.

    As for the dress… girl, you are above the half assed hispter-cutesy thing. Go home, put something bold and colorful on and we’ll talk. Send that dress to Zooey Deschanel so she can marvel at how the black tights appear through the lace-y part.

    • calimon

      ahhh, a sigh of relief! I am among my own here in TLo-ville!

  • Judy_S

    I liked the movie, but then my idea of a great movie duet is MacDonald and Eddy, where you can see them straining to get those notes, bosom heaving and chest expanding. I like HD opera. I can understand the exasperation though–Ruby Keeler staring at her feet vs. Ginger Rogers staring at Fred (and they did dub in the taps).

  • IMNAngryLiberal

    This is almost identical to the dress I wore for my confirmation many, many(, many) years ago. I thought it was way sophisticated at the time, but I was 12. Grown-ups shouldn’t wear full-skirted, eyelet dresses in any color, but especially not in white.

  • bookish

    I was so distracted by Anne Hathaway’s runny nose during “I Dreamed a Dream.” They made her look like absolute shit to earn that Oscar!

    • alyce1213

      Snot is a surefire way to win an Oscar, every time.

    • kerry noodles

      Hey, it could have been worse: in the book she sells her two FRONT teeth. Now that would have been something.

  • You have to admit that MOST musicals, and operas for that matter, don’t make much sense when you get right down to it. But they’re fun. And at least as relevant as most of what passes for fashion, n’est pas?

  • f_yeah_marie

    Perfect critique of the film. That’s exactly why I wasn’t blown away by it. I absolutely hated the close up shots, though I didn’t mind the live singing so much.

    Oh wait, was this a fashion post? 😉

  • Jess5628

    The extreme close-ups were incredibly bizarre. All those lovely teeth in the middle of all that political turmoil! I didn’t enjoy the movie per se, but I actually felt it was a decent rendition of the play. It just didn’t feel like a musical at all and I think TLo hit it on the nail re: the extreme close-ups taking the actors out of the scenes.

  • Kiernan Shipka would look cute in this dress.

  • I still haven’t seen this, and now I’m not even sure I want to. I noticed that everyone looked really bad in the previews and couldn’t tell if it was the particular scenes chosen, but if it’s because they’re all straining, all the time, I’m not sure I have my mind in the right place for that any time soon. I’m stressed enough as is without cringing and stressing on behalf of actors. More’s the pity.
    Also, between Les Mis and Rent, I’ve had it with fauxhemian musical bombast. They’re just so heavy and boring, and I love Victor Hugo, but the amount of teenagers who fall in love with these musicals and then ignore any other musicals of interest is getting on my nerves (sorry, part of the reason I’m stressed is I’m in the law school’s musical right now, and everyone loves singing Rent and Les Mis all the time, but belt a little My Fair Lady or Cabaret and people are totally dead-eyed and uninterested, and dammit people should know the damn classics.)

    • ballerinawithagun

      I agree with you, I love the old classic musicals. My husband loves Les Mis so I’ve tolerated it live once. We’ve missed the movie so far and I think it will continue to be missed.

    • Iroqhard

      Wait wait wait- they don’t know any songs from Cabaret???? Are you sure they are people interested in musicals, and not, like, pod people or something???

    • DeborahJozayt

      Can we add Sweet Charity to your classics list? There’s nothing like saying “Hey big spender!” and no one knowing the context.

    • alyce1213

      “fauxhemian musical bombast” Thank you for that!!

      They fail miserably in comparison to our greatest musicals written by Rogers & Hammerstein, Rogers & Hart, Bernstein & Sondheim, George & Ira Gershwin, Kander & Ebb, etc., etc.

    • Toto Maya

      I teach high school, and while I was interested in seeing it before, my students’ obsession with it has basically turned the whole thing off for me. When I was in high school, it was Phantom of the Opera. Now it’s Les Miz. I wonder what the next musical to be ruined for me will be.

      • It was Les Mis 10 years ago too, when I was in high school, but that was mostly us dweeby theater kids.

        In fact, I think the ideal time to enjoy Les Mis and Rent is in high school/college, before you actually start thinking, “Why the hell won’t these kids pay their damn rent?”

        That said, I am fond of Les Mis because it reminds me of high school (plus I love Victor Hugo), but Rent just annoys me now – they celebrated killing a DOG for crissakes.

    • Sally Brownson

      I miss Musical Mondays too. I’d love to have them back…

    • thelovelydove

      I’m 18 and I love Les Mis (the book and musical…I have yet to see the 2012 version of the movie) and Rent but I absolutely love older musicals like My Fair Lady, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The King and I, and The Music Man…it makes me mad when people my age claim to love musicals but are ignorant to the classics!

  • BadGabbyCat

    The 25th anniversary Les Misérables in Concert at the O2 arena is a great watch. Much better than the movie. But, the Jonas brother was terrible.

    • Violina23

      Agree: the actor who played Javert in particular was a standout compared to poor Russell Crowe. Plus, the actors playing the Thenardiers seemed much more spirited than HBC & SBC ( which again felt like a directing issue, because HBC & SBC hardy lack spirit!)

      • BadGabbyCat

        Norm Lewis, yes! Ramin Rarimloo as Enjolras was also outstanding.

        • l_c_ann

          He made me buy that version. Husband doesn’t understand, but I’m glad I’m not alone in the worship of Mr. Lewis.

    • CarolinLA

      That Jonas bro grew up doing Broadway. I thought he was lovely. And he joined the company for a while I think. It wasn’t just a gimmick.

  • I agree with you about the closeups. I particularly thought Russell Crowe’s performance would have benefitted from some context. Why did they stage him in a tower above the city? It would have been so much more interesting to see the courts and jails churning around him as he loses his mind.

  • I loved the film, not ashamed of it! <3

  • Diego!

    She definetely was the best in the movie, wich sucked big time, IMO as well! She looks cute 🙂

    • alyce1213

      Her song was the only thing that kept me in the theatre.

      • Diego!

        I agree. I went to the bathroom two times (specially when Russell Crowe was singing, wich was horrifying to my ears) and when Amanda was singing, I almost had to cover my ears. She was trying to emulate Mariah Carey’s high notes but never gotten quite there. Oh Dear, this movie was awful!

  • Careful guys, Adam Lambert got raked over the coals for basically saying the same thing. I haven’t seen it and have no desire to see it, even more so now than before.

    • alyce1213

      Adam Lambert was very brave and very right.

  • I hated the movie with the passion of a thousand hot suns. I generally don’t care for poperas, and I’ve never seen the show live, but looking at pictures I can imagine it has an amazing impact. That barricade scene was pathetic in the movie, but in the theater it must look like the whole world is at war. I love Hugh Jackman, but his character is supposed to have the voice of an angel. His nasal whining destroyed “Bring Him Home” (which I hate but never underestimate the power of cheap music). Samantha Barks might not be much of an actress, but her song was the highlight of the movie, and at least her character tried to do something. Between Susan Boyle and the hype of her Oscar campaign, I was sick of “I dreamed a Dream” before I got in the theater. And I still think Sally Field gave the better performance in that Oscar race. I’m so sick of doomed female characters.

    • alyce1213

      Agree with you on all counts! But please, go to any lengths see a live show — but NOT Les Mis (when it’s advertised on TV as “the greatest musical ever” I want to vomit). If you’re not near a show biz center, there are national tours that go everywhere. Choose carefully.

    • CarolinLA

      You said it much better than I did – that it seemed like they were in a massive war in the stage version. I was so disappointed that those young men gave their lives over a bunch of rickety chairs and old pianos that the military so easily defeated.

  • jorinde

    I don’t get the “atonal”, for me the music is much too tonal, if you say so. Too easy for the ear, like children’s songs at times, and WAY too similar. I’ve always been torn with the LesMis music, because in their best moments the songs are incredible and made LesMis to my favourite musical when I was a teen. When you take the songs alone, they’re incredible, but when you put them all after another, you just cannot NOT realize the immense lack of creativity. I think there is a falling scale in the bass line underneath every single number, even the mass choruses.

  • GorgeousThings

    Can I get an AMEN?????

    • Vlasta Bubinka

      Now let’s go forth and inspire the children.

  • I love a lot of the songs and the book and I still hated this movie with a vengeance. I think aside from the problems Tom & Lorenzo mentioned, there was also a major lack of character development. I knew these characters and I didn’t feel their connections or motivations. It all moved too quickly and was still way too long. And that operatic style of singing every piece of the dialogue was irritating and made the movie twice as boring.

  • MK03

    See, I had the same reaction, but for the opposite reason. Les Mis is one of my absolute favorite musicals and the movie made me SO fucking mad. I felt like they WEREN’T trying. This music is meant to be sung at full voice, with soaring vocals and rich timbre and vibratto. It’s closer to an opera than a regular musical, for God’s sake. You cannot scale back the orchestrations. You cannot half-assedly mewl your way through it (lookin’ at YOU, Russell Crowe) or just sit there and fucking sob and gasp the lyrics (ANNIE). I have…opinions on Anne Hathaway’s performance, but it’s a story far too long and vitriolic to get into here. I’ll just say this: Making Fantine a perpetual victim is a detriment to the character. She has to have somewhere to fall from in order to make her story resonate. If she starts at rock-bottom, she has nowhere to go. And Anne chose to be a soppy gob-face in every fucking scene, which just served to make her annoying. Meanwhile, it felt like everyone else was on Valium.

    • EEKstl


  • Imasewsure

    Haven’t tried the movie since I know that I won’t ever make it through so thank you for the recap (and confirmation that it’s not for me). On a fashion note, the dress is dull without the wig or something edgy – and that award is ugly!

  • MilaXX

    I made the mistake of telling someone that what I disliked about the movie was that you could see everyone ACTING! and you would have thought I kicked a puppy. Anyway I like Ms. Barks, but I don’t like this dress on her. That color does nothing for her.

    • alyce1213

      “you could see everyone ACTING!”
      Especially Anne Hathaway.

  • More importantly, why did the runway models have cotton candy wrapped around their heads?

  • korilian

    I frequently disagree with you guys (though I still enjoy your opinions), but on Les Miz, we are a hundred percent in accordance. I wish I’d watched in on the sofa, so I could have walked away from that hot mess.

  • I am a huge Les Miserables fan, and I agree 100% with your assessment. Maybe *not* singing live would have helped Russell Crowe’s performance, which I found to be lacking. And I also found that the extreme close-ups, while compelling at times, did take the actors out of the context of the song/scene, to the film’s detriment sometimes.

    P.S. Samantha’s dress is cute, but it looks JUST like my sister’s First Communion dress, minus the sleeves.

  • Okay, well, I am a classical double bass player, and I think the songs are gorgeous. I don’t understand the critique of “atonal” since they are anything but, and I think that some of the songs are truly classics. The problem with the musical as I see it, is that it can’t pause for breath. Trying to pack a Hugo novel into a couple of hours of singing and dancing makes for a punishing pace that can leave one a little shellshocked. But “I Dreamed a Dream”? “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”? Hell, even “Castle on a Cloud”. That ridiculous song that adult Cosette sings is the only real clunker, in my opinion.

    As for the movie, still haven’t seen it, and am a little worried about that “singing live” gimmick. I also hate super closeups, as a general rule. So I am torn.

    • Violina23

      Sometimes music doesn’t have to be necessarily complicated or sophisticated to be memorable or enjoyable — and even though some of the music of the big Broadway hits of the late 80’s (Les Miz, Phantom, Miss Saigon, etc) were, I suppose, somewhat gimmicky and perhaps somewhat pandering to a less sophisticated audience — I still loved them all! I mean, really, Phantom would be TERRIBLY boring if it wasn’t for the show-stopping musical numbers. The second act is pretty drab and boring actually.

      And TOTALLY agree on the songs Adult Cosette sings. “In My Life” is just annoying, but I can’t even with “A Heart Full of Love”. So I really couldn’t get that mad at Amanda Seyfried because the character (at least as depicted in the musical) is so 1-dimensional and somewhat annoying. I found her singing… unoffensive. Not great, but not “Oh dear god make it stop”, which is mostly a win when you have such a screechy soprano part.

      I’d recommend seeing the movie, but in small doses, maybe an hour at a time. And on a smaller TV screen 🙂 I didn’t hate it, but I appreciated what they tried to do. 😛

      • Thanks! I guess I will give it a shot.

  • SarahStiletto

    The super closeups were no good, but I think trying to call Les Mis a musical is a misnomer. It’s really more of an opera.

  • alyce1213

    Your review is spot on. I despised the live cry-singing, the attempt at “realism.” But really now — the minute someone starts singing in the street, disbelief is suspended, it is NOT reality, and they should have gone for best vocal quality and cut all the blubbering. The closeups were intrusive. This is the most overrated show and movie I’ve ever seen. Samantha’s song was the best thing by far, but my favorite part was when Russell Crow leapt to his death.

    • MilaXX

      mine too, but only because he stopped singing.

      • alyce1213


    • Billie_Dawn

      “the minute someone starts singing in the street, disbelief is suspended, it is NOT reality”

      YES. I absolutely love musicals (well, not this one), but all the talk about making Les Miserables “real” seemed so obviously wrongheaded to me that it was almost comical. And then you have Rob Marshall and his insistence on making every musical number imaginary, just so you don’t have people bursting into song. *headdesk*

      To crib from a Salon article: realism is the scourge of the modern movie musical. Can someone please make one that doesn’t appear to be ashamed to be a musical?

  • Totally agree – the casting would have all been fine (even Russel Crow – there I said it!) except that very few singers, even the most professionally trained, could have lived up to the rigors of doing multiple takes while singing live on camera and not shown the strain in their voices and in their acting. If you sit in the front row of a live musical, or ballet, the sheer amount of physical effort expended easily shows on their faces, the sweat on their brow and spit coming out of their mouths. To do so with a camera 3 inches from your face, blown up twenty sizes on a screen, was not going to produce very pretty results. I actually credit Samantha Barks for clearly doing what a trained singer does – she chose her voice over her acting. I also thought that the Thernardiers characters did not translate to the big screen at all. I’m not sure if it was HBC and SBC, or just that on the stage the characters provide some much needed comic relief whereas on the screen it was too jarring and rather than be a tension release for the audience, they only added to it.

  • alyce1213

    Kiernan Shipka’s dress, but she’d have better hair and accessories. Too twee for Ms. Barks.

  • j_anson

    I’ve never understood the Les Miz thing. Its function in life seems to be “the musical that you’re allowed to love if you really want to watch Andrew Lloyd Webber but are too snobby to do so.”

    • Violina23

      Andrew Lloyd Weber looks like a real jackass, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I love most of the music from Phantom 😛 And yes, even some of the songs from CATS are catchy, even though I saw it when I was 10 and fell asleep. 🙂

      • j_anson

        Hey, when I was 18 and went to London for the first time, I literally cried when my father failed to procure tickets to Phantom of the Opera. (I should probably note that at the time I didn’t realize that jetlag makes me emotionally volatile – I don’t NORMALLY cry when I don’t get my way.) I hear ya. 🙂 ALW may well be a douche, but then, if I didn’t watch anything by someone who was a douche, how could I enjoy Jurassic Park?

        • Violina23

          I also have a soft spot for “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, mostly since it’s just so silly. I’d love to bring my daughter to a production of that someday! My dad loves “Jesus Christ Superstar” too (which we always rag on him for because we’re Jewish), but I’ve never seen that one.

          Theater’s job is to entertain us, even if douchebags make money off it, right? As long as they don’t go Mel Gibson-level crazy/offensive, I’ll wait on TKTS for it 😉

  • kimbalala

    I think this was made just in time for your review

  • Angela_the_Librarian

    The dress is vanilla pretty and the award is strange looking.

    Okay, on to Les Mis. I’m in the minority here but I really enjoyed the movie. I think there were some miscasts (looking at you Crowe and Seyfried), and the pacing was off (very choppy in places), but overall I really enjoyed it. I was pretty much flat out ugly crying by the end of the movie (which I haven’t done since seeing Up) and I thought Jackman was brilliant. All in all the positives outweighed the negatives for me, but of course everyone is entitled to their opinion!

  • Tatiana Luján

    There were 2 o 3 good songs in the movie, but the rest of them were just plainly boring and bad.

    It was like they had to create very simple and repetitive melodies, so the actors could sing their lines without an aditional effort to remember the melody as well as the “lyrics”.

    Most of the times the actors sing, it isn’t moving or beautiful, it seems as a caprice of the director to make them sing “because it is a musical”.

    • alyce1213

      The composers (Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg) were not trying to create simple and repetitive melodies so actors could sing their lines. Their attempt was an opetta-type musical (like the MUCH GREATER Porgy & Bess, by the Gershwins), based on the classIc Hugo novel. ONLY THEY DIDN’T DO A VERY GOOD JOB. The director, Tom Hooper, made it even worse with bad casting, bad choices about live singing, and obnoxious close-ups.

  • I couldn’t get past the kid from Oliver popping in here and there. Post-revolution Paris and Sacha Baran Cohen is the only one with a French accent? It was a somewhat entertaining sop fest. That made me feel guilty for guffawing during Javert’s suicide.

    • alyce1213

      Javert’s leap was my favorite part.

  • Interesting points. I love opera, but we don’t buy our season tickets to have an up close shot of the singers emoting. It’s nice as an entire scene seen from the balcony.

  • sockandaphone

    i saw it the day it came out (i took my best friend as a christmas present since its her favorite musical) and im not really a musicals person so this movie was torturous. I was live-tweeting it to keep myself from falling asleep (and my friends were dying) and yeah that was rude, but the singing was so strained at times and i guess it was odd to watch a movie that had about…2 spoken lines. The close-ups were a bit odd, and by god this movie felt like an eternity. At least if you go see a musical you get an intermission, not so in the movies.
    also anne didnt deserve her oscar win (the nomination yes).

  • Maribeth Mason

    Congratulations to Samantha on her First Communion.

  • StelledelMare

    I personally really enjoyed the movie and I saw the musical live for the first time only just last month. I wasn’t really much into the musical before the movie came out being only familiar with a couple of songs but not the story or characters really. But while I was preparing for the movie I was watching the anniversary versions and those are what really sold it for me so I’d recommend the 10th and the 25th versions. The movie is thus far my least favorite interpretation that I’ve seen. But still, it’s not my favorite musical but I’m definitely a fan now.

  • ChiKat67

    Thank you TLo, started watching this movie on NYE and FIVE minutes in my friends and I were all “NO” and chose to watch Dark Shadows…which may be the worst movie I saw last year.

  • CarolinLA

    Was anyone else disappointed that the barricades were so lame? From the stage play, I thought the barricades were much more substantial but the film made it seem kind of stupid to get killed over.

  • CarolinLA

    It was also a terrible choice to suck the life out of Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Those numbers are usually so boisterous and in the film I found them depressing.

  • CarolinLA

    I had read the book prior to seeing the show on Broadway with the original cast and I fell forever in love with it. I cried so hard when Valjean was dying and he still had the candlesticks given to him by the priest. And then I saw the movie. I didn’t hate it and I certainly admired the actors for giving their all to it. They tried so desperately to bring realism to the story but Les Miz is almost too epic to bring down to the mundane. I don’t know. I still haven’t figured out why I wasn’t thrilled. Besides Russell Crowe.

  • I liked it. All your views on the movie I agree with but I enjoyed the movie despite its flaws. Maybe that comes from me not having watched the play but I would watch it again 🙂

  • H2olovngrl


  • Scoobydrew

    I have never understood any Le Miz love, but I’m a Sweet Charity kinda gal, so that explains that.

    My grandfather was a classical violinist, which can be vexxing when living in ‘the south. One of my first memories is of my grandfather screaming at my Uncle “it’s not a %)^(*$Q* fiddle, it’s a VIOLIN!” When we were alone he would play me folk music from Hungary and Romania, I love it to this day.

    • alyce1213

      I’ll take Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields over this drivel any day.

  • CatherineRhodes

    AMEN. You nailed it completely.

  • EEKstl

    Yes yes and yes. I think in a previous posting I railed against this film (I saw it New Year’s Day), and for all the reasons you cited. Such self-reverential “importance,” so over the top and not in a good, “Valley of the Dolls” way. HATED.

  • calimon

    I am so incredibly relieved and grateful to have read this “impromptu” review! My friend dragged me out see this in the theater. She insisted we would each require our own box of tissues to get through it. I did not get sad once. In fact I think I was mostly happy, albeit bored. My poor friend was stunned and asked if I was a “robot”.

    I feel so validated that my dear Uncles feel the same way I did!

  • I have ZERO interest in seeing Les Miz. It’s a depressing story, with an unremarkable at best songbook.

  • BrooklynBomber

    I don’t know why, but I love this line: “an actor straining so hard to hit their notes while sobbing or screaming or running.”

  • DesertDweller79

    I am also a trained classical musician. And I like Les Mis as a stage play. The music is definitely not atonal by any measure of that word. It isn’t close to being as modern sounding as most Sondheim musicals are. Not that I would say I love all of the songs in the show, or anything. I do really like a few of them, though.

    Like Lorenzo, I had to quit on the movie adaptation. It was ridiculous. Tom, you are dead right. The acting should be conveyed through the singing. It shouldn’t be acting *instead* of singing. This is inevitably what happens when you cast actors instead of singers. And get a director who doesn’t understand singing or musicals. If you read any of the interviews Hooper and the actors did, it was clear that they all believe singing involves parking oneself in place and belting out some notes on the correct pitches. And nothing more. To someone who has been taking voice lessons for over 15 years this is ludicrous beyond belief. Good singing involves expression of the lyrics and emotion of the piece. That is PART OF singing.

    These actors simply cannot sing. Hugh Jackman is maybe passable. Samantha Barks was okay. That was it. No one else could sing. The intonation, tone quality, dynamics, phrasing, articulation AND (yes) expression were dreadful. Amazing that actors could forget something as simple as correct word stress when they started trying to sing. I have 15 year old students who could sing these pieces better.

    Yes, Tom Hooper. Singing involves intonation, tone quality, dynamics, phrasing, articulation and expression. Not to mention proper breathing, which none of your actors used either. I just couldn’t stand it. It was all I could handle just to listen to it in the background as my roommate watched it.