Roger Ebert on “Les Miserables”

Roger Ebert, who missed out on some of the year’s big Oscar-season releases, finally caught up with Les Misérables.

What did he think?

Well, let’s just say I feel a little less lonely this morning.

He writes:

Looking at the nine films nominated for Best Picture, I find only one that I flatly don’t believe was a good film, the near-unbearable “Les Miserables.” Victor Hugo’s superbly entertaining novel has been transformed into a lumbering musical of dirges that rise and fall, with the occasional relief of a little rinky-dink tune. Not only do you fail to come out humming the songs, you almost don’t realize they are songs. Hugo’s set piece about the escape through the sewers of Paris is one of the great passages in fiction, and although the film indeed shows it, it doesn’t bring it to life.

In case you missed it, here’s my review.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Sirkka

    Not only do you fail to come out humming the songs, you almost don’t realize they are songs.
    Having seen Ebert’s positive review of the Hobbit, I googled his review of Les Misérables, as I did not see it on the list of IMDb. I am disappointed and sad that he did not care for it. I have loved the songs for a long time.

  • Jeanette

    I have seen the play twice, loved every single moment with an awe in my throat. That being said, I was excited for the movie because movies have the capability to expand on the limited space of a stage and it didn’t disappoint me there. The scene of the young men starting the revolution was exhilarating, and I commend each young man for their part in that wonderful scene. However, I am so angry with the director for not using Helena and Sacha to their full comic capabilities. They are suppose to be the levity, the spontanious guttural laugh-out-loud break from les miserables. It gave me such joy to see Sacha’s character to get punched in the face, not because of the character but because he deserved it for not do his job as an actor. That’s just how I felt.

  • publicx

    I just sat through 2 3/4 hours of chanting monotony disguised as songs. Must every detail of the story be sung? As far as the tits and explosion that one reviewer suggests we must have to be satisfied there was ample cleavage and sexual suggestion and explosions as well. Frankly the whole thing can be described in one word “tedious”.

  • http://none Michael Starks

    “A little less lonely”? Seriously? I think it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that you would ever be alone in hating on a musical. The world of movie criticism is full of hetero men and we all know how much hetero men hate musicals…the good ones, the bad ones…doesn’t matter. If people sing their dialogue and there are no explosions or tits or (for a small few) deep philosophical arguments…you’re going to hate it.

    • Jeffrey Overstreet

      First of all, nobody said anything about “hating.” Disappointed? Sure. Frustrated? Yes. Hate? Not even close. You brought that into it, so you’re not addressing my review… or Ebert’s.

      Secondly, I’m sure there are lots of men… and women… hetero or otherwise… who hate musicals. I am not one of them. Ebert is not one of them. I love musicals, and have many favorites. Pretty sure Ebert does too. So your generalizations don’t really apply here.

      Three, if there are people who have distorted preferences in musicals like those you describe, I don’t know them, and I hope I never meet them. I love movies from all kinds of genres so long as they’re well made. I don’t think this one was well made. I went in excited about it and my hopes were dashed within fifteen minutes.

      So no, nobody is hating here. Sounds to me like you’re overreacting in a big way.


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