Two minutes in: You can do this, Ryan. Sure, a three-hour film version of a Broadway musical is a dry way to waterboard you, but people say Les Misérables is the best adaptation yet. Maybe this is the one that finally changes your mind.
Five minutes in: Nope. This is my personal hell.
Twenty minutes in: If anyone finds this, please get word to director Tom Hooper that there’s a difference between a close-up and invasive surgery. If I see any further up Hugh Jackman’s nose, I’ll see his thoughts.
Twenty-five minutes in: Man, Jean Valjean (Jackman) did a 20-year bid for stealing bread. The French take croissants seriously, huh? Hey, if I can already pick up on how the theme is a simple contrast between Javert (Russell Crowe), the absolutist, and Valjean, the “changed man,” reflecting the potential of France herself to change, do I have to stay?
Forty minutes in: Holy goblin face, Hooper! What demonic camera lens did you use to turn Anne Hathaway into a grotesque mutant? Still, she is acting her corseted booty off, and her singing is pretty dope. You know, maybe I’ll like this movie after all!
Forty-two minutes in: She’s dead? What? How? What did she die of? Prostitution isn’t fatal or we’d be reading Kim Kardashian’s eulogy by now.
An hour in: Why is there no French Revolution in this French Revolution movie? And why don’t these characters just talk instead of sing, at least sometimes? I’ve seen them do it! They should be able to stop talk-singing and just talk-talk. I mean, for God’s sake it doesn’t even rhyme or have a discernible cadence!
An hour and fifteen minutes in: Abandon all hope! The corpse of Helena Bonham Carter has been dredged up and reanimated as a bloated clown walrus, and Sacha Baron Cohen keeps poking at her like her pasty boobs are mini-pinatas. Oh, and Valjean talked to Fantine (Hathaway) once in his life and now he’s raising her kid? Eighteen years, am I right, Kanye?
An hour and forty five minutes in: Hooper, the way your cinematographer shot Amanda Seyfried means I can’t buy that Marius (Eddie Redmayne) would love her at first sight; she looks like a mouse that got into hydrochloric acid. And Marius sings like he’s doing a Kermit the frog impression!
Two hours to two and a half hours in: Cold … so very cold. The singing never stops. It. Just. Never. Stops. And the camera keeps getting closer and closer and … I’m going towards the light. I feel you, Javert! You my boy!
Epilogue: Jackman, Hathway, Crowe and newcomer Samantha Barks gave their damn damnedest, for nothing; they were tilting at windmills. Broadway musicals do not, will not and cannot work as films. Cinema is a medium that relies on showing, not telling, and musicals are all telling; characters tell us how they feel, where they’re going, what just happened and what will happen next. It’s not about “getting it right” with these adaptations. It can’t be gotten right: these mediums are in diametric opposition. On stage, Les Misérables may bring me to tears. I only cried at the movie during a panic attack due to a fear the singing would never stop. To musical enthusiasts everywhere: I tried. I promise.
— This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.