Saturday, 29 December 2012

Review: Les Miserables - To Love Another Person Is To See The Face Of God

So, I saw Les Misérables. Twice, actually. I saw it on 22nd December, at a midday advanced screening session which may have literally been the first public screening in Australia, and then again yesterday.

I won't spend a huge amount of time explaining what this show means to me. I will say that I have seen it onstage about seven or eight times. This includes professional productions (in Sydney, 1997 and in London, in 2006 and 2007) as well as school and local productions. I have seen the 10th anniversary concert DVD over twenty times, the 25th anniversary concert at the cinema. I have read the book, and seen the non-musical films (the 2000 miniseries with John Malkovich is the best in my opinion) and I have listened to the soundtrack literally hundreds of times (again, 10th anniversary cast = best cast.) I will say that I know every single breath of the show as a musical, every word, that it is my favourite musical, that it changed my life, that it was probably what drew me into being passionate about music as a medium in general, and that it – extending to more musical theatre – would be the reason why songs that are stories mean the most to me, in any genre. So yeah. Les Mis is kind of a big deal for me. This movie coming out – kind of a big deal for me. It had the potential to be the best or worst thing that has ever happened to me, and, good news, I'm currently leaning towards best!

God knows how many times I'll end up seeing it. When I worked at a video store, I used to put the 10th anniversary concert DVD on every weekend shift. When my brother was in the ensemble of a production of it at his school, I ended up going three times – and spoiler alert, it wasn't because I was proud of my brother or anything. Sorry, brother.

Anyway, I have to write about my feels. The first part of this will be general, about different aspects of the movie/musical, and then the end part – which is long – explains my feelings on a certain aspect/certain characters in the book-canon who are my favourite and my babies and the amazing way the film has used the book as a resource to actually show some of that in a way that the musical is usually too simplistic to be able to focus on.

So, first off, the leads:

Hugh Jackman as Valjean – was fine. He was not bad at all, and I especially liked the Soliloquy/What Have I Done as well as Who Am I. He managed the live-singing aspect really well in these, the pacing and the emotion. His quiet breakdown whisper on “I feel my shame inside me like a knife” will be sticking me for a long time, as will his delivery of “yes Cosette, forbid me now to die” in his death scene at the end. But Valjean just never moves me that much anyway though? I know he's the lead and whatever, but he just isn't the focus for me. I have heard Hugh Jackman talk about this live-singing process and how it means that you're not limited to the traditional song structure or whatever – that he had the freedom to go from speaking to singing, from quiet to loud, power, whispers, making acting choices with the singing delivery as opposed to delivering a formally structured song performance, and he definitely did well in this aspect.

So did Anne Hathaway, who was flawless perfection as Fantine, a character I usually ignore. She genuinely used to bore me and I never cared for I Dreamed A Dream. But wow, wow, wow. She was the best, just the best. That live-singing-making-acting-choices thing? That aspect worked better for her than for anyone else, she was the best at making the medium work. She was just amazing, beautiful. I never thought much about her as an actress, just never gave her that much thought, until I saw her onstage in 2011, doing a reading, at an event hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and she just blew me away then, as a stage performer. It's her medium, I don't want to say she's wasted in film, exactly, but she kind of is, and while this is obviously film as well, she was using stage-acting qualities and this just made me want to see her on Broadway. Of course, film has the added benefit of doing face close-ups, and while this was something over-used in the movie (I will get to gripes in a little bit) for her it worked, the horror of her getting fucked by the sailor client, the single-shot take of I Dreamed A Dream, and the close-ups of her delirious, happy, dying craziness... yeah. She was something else. I was so reluctant about Anne Hathaway for the longest time – since 2001, when I stamped my foot and said “she is NOT my Princess Mia!” and proceeded to not forgive her, for ten years. I can safely say – Anne, you are more than forgiven. I'm sorry.

Apologies are also in order for Mr Russell Crowe. When this casting was announced I was just absolutely like “Nope. No. Terrible.” I don't know why I was so objectionable about it – I think it was that I knew his singing voice isn't the traditional booming powerful voice that Javert generally has, and also that he isn't harsh enough, that he didn't seem stern and cold and brutish enough. Yeah, I eat my hat. Because he wasn't those things – he wasn't – but he was something better. He gave Javert this real nobility – not the harsh righteousness that you automatically want to oppose, but this vulnerability that was almost close to Asperger's or OCD. He reminded me, uncontrollably in some ways, of Sheldon Cooper, the way he played Javert's single-mindedness. I found myself finding him sweet, even, like in the scene where he comes to report to Monsieur Madeleine – Valjean, after he's rebuilt his life, saying he's there to serve – it was almost like an eager puppy, and again later when he comes to admit that he thinks he's done wrong by Madeleine and asks Madeleine to press charges against him because he feels that he deserves it. He isn't a hypocrite, and he sees the world in black and white. His singing wasn't that strong, honestly, and it struck me the first time I saw it, but by the second, I didn't mind it – and the lack of boom and power suited his version of Javert anyway. I cannot believe what brilliant character work he did, it seems I was forgetting that Crowe has two Best Actor Oscars. I was intrigued even by his movements, his weird precision, his pacing the edge of the roof in Stars, a metaphor for his faith, and his movements fighting Valjean in The Confrontation. The Confrontation in general was staged perfectly and was one of the best moments of the film. And then, when he joined the revolutionaries undercover, you could see it, you could see him starting to have his values shaken, to start to see the grey areas, even before Valjean frees him. The most emotional part of the movie – the part where I broke down and sobbed, I mean really sobbed, couldn't stop, was a wordless moment too detailed to be in the musical and, to my recollection, wasn't in the book either, and it's when Javert is observing all the bodies laid out, of the revolutionaries, and he passes over Gavroche, crouches down, and pins his own valour medal on him. I fucking lost my shit. It was the most beautiful thing they could have done, I wasn't expecting it, and I have tears dripping again just writing this. So yeah. I loved his Javert, even if he isn't the greatest Broadway-style singer I have ever witnessed.

The Thénardiers – were well cast - I usually greatly dislike Helena Bonham Carter, but she was great for this, she really was - and performed well, but it was all done a bit too lightly. Bits of Master Of The House were TOO much comic relief in a way that just didn't suit the rest of the movie's tone. In the musical, Lovely Ladies can also be a funny-ish number, but here it wasn't, it was sinister, so Master Of The House should have been a little more sinister as well. Most of it was okay, but some of it was just a bit too stupid, and that goes for their appearance at the wedding as well.

Cosette – both Isabelle Allen (baby Cosette) and Amanda Seyfried made her a lot less simpering and a lot stronger than how she's done in the musical. Amanda especially – I mean she wasn't exactly a tough rebellious woman, but she had enough independence, enough strength of character, pushed Valjean enough, for me actually to be offended on her behalf when Valjean and Marius are keeping things from her “for her sake.” Usually I just find her wishy-washy and annoying and getting in the way of one of the saddest and most beautiful OTPs ever, but I hated Amanda's Cosette much less than any other Cosette.

MariusEddie Redmayne gets ALL THE AWARDS. God. He'd never sung before doing this film? He was so, so good. He has something, that kid, he is always so interesting to watch, and again, Marius is usually kind of a dumb drip. He was way more enigmatic than most Mariuses I can remember seeing, and I can't believe how good he sounded – not flawless, not the most traditional tone, but strong and interesting and just, yeah, he was great. I know that all Les Amis de l'ABC,  including him, sat with the director, Tom Hooper, and drew a lot from the book-canon for all their characters, and they crafted a wonderful Marius. I'm glad he got the role and he truly deserved it, even though people were screaming for it to go to a Broadway veteran. Apparently he's been obsessed with the show since he was seven years old and it legitimately inspired him to start acting in general, and yes, good, yes.

Samantha Barks as Eponine – oh, Eponine, my dearest, dearest girl- was perfect and criminally underused. For some reason – I'm going to go out on a limb and say 'they were on crack,' they cut several of her best dialogue-y scenes – her first long back and forth with Marius, that really paints the picture of their relationship – they kept, like, one line; and also the awkward introduction, by Marius, of her and Cosette as adults.. but what she did have was perfect. On My Own wasn't the traditional ingénue belting it out to the back of the room, it was her crying into her knees, and A Little Fall Of Rain – oh, man. That's the song that literally took me years not to cry in even on the cast recording. I will always cry every time I see it staged, but I used to cry every time I even heard it. It was beautiful, and the film included the book-canon aspect of her directing the soldier's gun to shoot her, rather than her just getting picked off while climbing to Marius. Ughhh, that poor girl. I swear to God, if anyone has ever come out of Les Mis actually shipping Cosette/Marius instead of wishing that Cosette would go away and Marius realise how amazing Eponine is, you are doing it wrong.

Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche was another flawless part of the film – sometimes Gavroche can be a bit of a snotty, arrogant brat, too sassy, too Artful Dodger, and not, to me, all that likable. This version was perfectly balanced and adorable and you loved him and Les Amis loved him and he died horribly and even Javert loved him. I desperately want to get a TARDIS, go and get Javert and Gavroche, and have Javert run off with him and raise him in a caravan, like Bruce Willis and the kid in Moonrise Kingdom.

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was a prince, he was poetry in motion, the rest of Les Amis were marvellous, especially George Blagden as Grantaire and Fra Fee as Courfeyrac, and you could tell they were truly feeling it in all their amazing group numbers, and there's about 3000 words to follow of my Barricade Boys feelings, so strap yourself in.

Before we get there, though: some gripes and some loving mentions:

There were a couple of aspects of the film I didn't love: there were too many close-up shots. Yes, I get that they wanted to show off their live singing and do single takes and make a big deal of that but you didn't need to do it for the entirety of every solo. Some performances suffered from it. It worked for Valjean's Soliloquy  I Dreamed A Dream, and On My Own – even On My Own didn't need it. Everything else could have been less close-up-in-your-face. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, especially – not that Mr Redmayne couldn't sing it, not that he needed the takes, but the performance would have been better and more moving if we'd panned around, if we'd had flashbacks of the rest of his friends, all that kind of thing. I can't believe I'm saying this, but more montages were needed? This could be said for a few of the songs that just lingered on the singer's face. The movie had such a huge and grand scope, yet they spent so much time right up here in your face – often with quite strange framing, due to the fact that they may have got a perfect singing take from a less than perfect camera angles. So yeah, the group numbers really stood out for me as stronger.

They also did this thing, a couple of times, which I did not understand at all, which is where they would change a bit of random wording from the original for no purpose that I could tell? Like, the musical came first, I am not sure why they changed words to fit the film, surely they should be building the film around the words? One random one that stands out was Bamatabois, “Javert, would you believe it, I was crossing from the park...” and in the film “Javert, would you believe it, I was lost here in the dark..” like.. why couldn't he be crossing from the park? They could have put a park there? Another was just a word change of the Bishop, saying “I have saved your soul for God” instead of “bought your soul for God” - the imagery of saved rather than bought paints kind of a different picture to me, because for the whole musical Valjean considers the entire thing a sort of bargain.

Also, the new song, Suddenly. Look, it was actually sweet, and I know they want the Best Song Oscar and to be eligible for that you need an actual original song, but like... I'd have rather have gotten more Eponine/Marius flirting, or Grantaire's verse of Drink With Me, or the full Attack On Rue Plumet. I know they filmed EVERYTHING, and Tom Hooper's original cut was nearly 5 hours long, and there is just stuff I would have rather seen than that new song which I have zero investment in.

This length issue/cutting issue also leads to my final problem with the movie, which is that some cuts were made in odd places – cuts that messed with the flow of a song, or didn't complete a rhyme. It was quite jarring, as was a thing they did a few times in which they would change the order of dialogue in a song, which again messed with the rhyme and flow – for example “come on ladies, settle down, I run a business of repute, I am the mayor of this town” was changed to “come on ladies, settle down, I am the mayor of this town, I run a business of repute..” and the transition was really awkward? And less than 5 minutes later they had it again, with the Runaway Cart and the line goes, from Javert as he speculates on the Mayor reminding him of Valjean: "forgive me sir, I would not dare.." and Valjean saying “Say what you must, don't leave it there!” and in the musical these lines are switched? Like Valjean says his first? I get why they did it – because in the song, Javert then goes to sing about his explanation of the criminal Valjean, and they don't do that immediately in the movie – Javert comes to him later. So they can't end the scene with Valjean saying “say what you must, don't leave it there” and then Javert just... not saying anything.. but the flow of it doesn't work well.

However, all these issues were things that jolted me on my first viewing, because I had all the exact wording of the musical in my head. On my second watch, it was very easy to just go with it, gloss over it, and get used to it, and I can only imagine these issues will go away even more each time I see the film again and get to know it as its own permanent entity.

Um, Colm Wilkinson (the original Valjean) cameo as the Bishop, every hardcore Les Mis fan would have been crying at that; scenes/staging that I adored: At The End Of The Day was incredible, the women working with Fantine, the foreman, and the fact that Valjean sighted Javert and that's why he didn't stick around to help – I always raise my eyebrow a bit, in the stage show, where he comes in and is like “what's all this? You fix it,” for pretty much no reason. I liked the re-structuring of some of the songs, like changing the order of I Dreamed A Dream/Lovely Ladies/The Runaway Cart – the new structure worked PERFECTLY for the storytelling medium of film. At first I was a bit taken aback by the change of Do You Hear The People Sing – usually they go straight into it from Red and Black, but in the film they do Red and Black, they have all of Marius and Cosette's meeting (In My Life/Heart Full Of Love), On My Own, and One Day More before doing Do You Hear The People Sing, and I am sat there going 'where is it?' But they do it the next morning, at General Lamarque's funeral parade, as an initial movement of rebellion and protest, and the effect of it is absolutely chilling and by that moment, I knew, I knew that this whole thing could have disappointed a lot of people, it could have all gone wrong, but it wasn't going to, that this was right, this was the best, because there is literally no way to top how they did that scene. The finale of Valjean watching the reprise of Do You Hear The People Sing on the gigantic barricade, with all the honoured dead, is also so grand and beautiful that I have never envied actors more than I envy the people who got to be a part of it.

I also love how much book canon they were able to use. LOVE it. I have already mentioned a few moments, but others that stand out include the removal of Fantine's teeth, the fact it was Christmas Eve when Valjean fetches Cosette as a child, Fauchelevant taking in Valjean and Cosette at the convent, the elephant statue Gavroche lives inside, and a lot of details about the Cafe Musain and the goings on of that time, including actual details of the June Rebellion, such as the funeral parade. There is so much more, I haven't read the book since high school and am in the process of going through it again now, but those are just a few I remember.

But for me, because I'm me – the most important book-canon aspect and the most interesting relationship in the story is that between Enjolras and Grantaire. If you've seen the musical, you know who Grantaire is, even if you don't know you know – he's the one always shown to be drinking and messing about. He's the one that teases Marius about falling in love with Cosette and encourages him, in order to goad Enjolras, and he's the one with the incredibly cynical second verse in Drink With Me: ("will the world remember you when you fall?/could it be your death means nothing at all?/is your life just one more lie?") In the book, however, it is so much more detailed: Grantaire is a sceptic and a cynic, a hedonist and an alcoholic, he's brilliant, witty, funny, he doesn't believe in the revolution, in their common cause, he isn't honourable, he thinks Les Amis de l'ABC are wasting their time. However, he stays with them, he keeps coming to meetings – even when he interrupts said meetings with poetic and distracting monologues; he keeps asking for tasks to be assigned to him, even when he fucks up and does not fulfil them. He canonically calls himself R, because Grantaire sounds like grande r – capital R in French, and so does Les Mis fandom, and so shall I. So why is R still hanging around the Cafe Musain, when all he does is get drunk, drop truth-bombs, and mock people? Enjolras. R is pretty much in love with Enjolras – not because he believes in Enjolras's ideas, but because he believes in the boy himself.

From the text:

Still, this sceptic had fanaticism. This fanaticism was not for an idea, nor a dogma, nor an art, nor a science; it was for a man: Enjolras. Grantaire admired, loved, and venerated Enjolras. To whom did this anarchical doubter ally himself in this phalanx of absolute minds? To the most absolute. In what way did Enjolras subjugate him? By ideas? No. Through character. A phenomenon often seen. A sceptic adhering to a believer is as simple as the law of complementary colours: that which we lack attracts us. Nobody loves the light like a blind man. The dwarf adores the drum major. The toad is always looking up at the sky. Why? To see the bird fly. Grantaire, crawling with doubt, loved to see faith soaring in Enjolras. He needed Enjolras. Without understanding it clearly, and without trying to explain it to himself, that chaste, healthy, firm, direct, hard, honest nature charmed him.

Instinctively, he admired his opposite. His soft, wavering, disjointed, diseased, deformed ideas hitched onto Enjolras as a backbone. His moral spine leaned on that firmness. Beside Enjolras Grantaire became somebody again. On his own, he was actually composed of two apparently incompatible elements. He was ironic and cordial. His indifference was loving. His mind dispensed with belief, yet his heart could not dispense with friendship. A thorough contradiction; for an affection is a conviction. This was his nature. There are men who seem born to be the opposite, the reverse, the counterpart. They are Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus, Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechméja. The live only on condition of leaning on another; their names are sequels, only written preceded by the conjunction "and"; their existence is not their own; it is the other side of a destiny not their own. Grantaire was one of these men. He was the reverse of Enjolras.

We might almost say that affinities begin with the letters of the alphabet. In the series O and P are inseparable. You can, as you choose, pronounce O and P, or Orestes and Pylades.

Grantaire, a true satellite of Enjolras, lived in this circle of young people; he existed within it; he took pleasure only in it; he followed them everywhere. His delight was to see these forms coming and going in the haze of wine. He was tolerated for his good humour.

Enjolras, being a believer, disdained this sceptic, and being sober, scorned this drunkard. He granted him a bit of haughty pity. Grantaire was an unaccepted Pylades. Always treated rudely by Enjolras, harshly repelled, rejected, yet returning, he said of Enjolras, "What a fine statue!"


So yeah. R is obsessed with Enjolras to the point where Victor Hugo makes all these allegories to the Ancient Greek homoerotic figures – Enjolras's introductory pages compare E himself to Antinous, Aristogeiton and later in the text, to Apollo – and here, E and R as a pair are painted as Achilles and Patrocles, Alexander and Hephaestion, Euryalus and Nisus, and of course, Orestes and Pylades, the last of which becomes very important later. The thing is, this is a “two-halves-of-the-same-whole” allusion, not a “close friends” allusion because they are NOT friends. If we were talking about the best BROTP in nineteenth century Paris, we'd be looking at Enjolras and Combeferre, who very much calms E down - ("The Revolution was more adapted for breathing with Combeferre than with Enjolras. Enjolras expressed its divine right, and Combeferre its natural right. The first attached himself to Robespierre; the second confined himself to Condorcet. Combeferre lived the life of all the rest of the world more than did Enjolras. If it had been granted to these two young men to attain to history, the one would have been the just, the other the wise man.")

Grantaire is barely even tolerated by Enjolras, but he loves that E believes in himself, even when R lives to tease him about that very fact (though not really, remember, an affection is a conviction.) He loves that E believes in people being good, being righteous, because he thinks that the human condition sucks so badly, and he can't make himself not believe it, but he wants so much to be wrong. He wants Enjolras to be right. They are tied together, by love, fate, whatever – something different to logical convictions. Alexander and Hephaestion, Orestes and Pylades, Enjolras and Grantaire, but Enjolras won't accept the connection. But R keeps hanging around, just to be with E. Enjolras, whose character is made pretty obvious even in the simplified musical, “was a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible.” He's very noble, he has incredible convictions, he is the spark. Without him, the boys would just be sitting around saying “wouldn't things be better if...” and many of them were really just kids playing adult games right up until they died.

But Enjolras was the real deal, harsh, true to his convictions, and, in a way, totally naïve. ("He chastely dropped his eyes before everything which was not the Republic. He was the marble lover of liberty. His speech was harshly inspired, and had the thrill of a hymn. He was subject to unexpected outbursts of soul.") I mean the way he reacts to Marius falling in love with Cosette is basically the same as, on Teen Wolf, the way Derek reacts every time Scott is distracted by or prioritises Allison, he's like “I don't have time for your teenage shit, Marius, ugh, I'm so above this” but it's actually because he's so naïve and repressed that doesn't know how to open himself up at all. There is a bit (in a chapter called “Wherein Will Appear the Name of Enjolras' Mistress”) where the other guys – not even Grantaire, just some of the boys - are teasing about Enjolras and discussing how he could possibly be so passionate – the kind of crazed bravery usually inspired by love of a woman. “He is not in love, and yet he manages to be intrepid. It is a thing unheard of that a man should be as cold as ice and as bold as fire." E overhears this and mutters “Patria.” - homeland. So yeah, Enjolras is in love with France. He's that guy.

ANYWAY, the volumes of the book focusing on Les Amis de l'ABC feature quite a few scenes of Grantaire's dedication to Enjolras, and trying to win his approval. There's a bit, where E is trying to send people out to different neighbourhoods  to spread the gospel of Enjolras or whatever, and because Marius is off chasing Cosette, E finds himself a man short. R is like “hey, what about me? I can do it!” and E is like “what the fuck, YOU? Er, no.” Let me post you the dialogue here:

"I have to have somebody for the Barriere du Maine. There’s nobody left."

"Me," said Grantaire, "I’m here."



"You to indoctrinate republicans! You, to warm up, in the name of principles, hearts that have grown cold!"

"Why not?"

"Can you be good for something?"

"I have a vague ambition in that direction," said Grantaire.

"You don't believe in anything."

"I believe in you."

"Grantaire, do you want to do me a favour?"

"Anything. Polish your boots."

"Well, don't meddle in our affairs. Sleep off your absinthe."

"You're an ingrate, Enjolras."

"You'd be a fine man to go to the Barriere du Maine! You'd be capable of that!"

"I'm capable of going down to the Rue des Grés, of crossing the Place Saint-Michel, of striking off through the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, of taking the Rue de Vaugirard, of passing the Carmelites, of turning into the Rue d'Assas, of reaching the Rue du Cherch-Midi, of leaving behind me the War Ministry, of hurrying through the Rue des Vieilles-Tuileries, of striding through the Boulevard, of crossing the Chaussée de Maine, of crossing over the Barriere, and of entering Richefeu's. I am capable of that. My shoes are capable of it."

"Do you know anything about those comrades at Richefeu's?"

"Not much. We're on good terms, though."

"What will you say to them?"

"I'll talk about Robespierre, by God. About Danton, about principles."


"Me! You don't do me justice. When I get going, I'm formidable. I've read Prudhomme, I know the Contrat Social, I know my constitution of the year Two by heart. 'The Liberty of one citizen ends where the Liberty of another citizen begins.' Do you take me for a brute? I have an old assignat in my drawer. The Rights of Man, the sovereignty of the people, ye gods! I'm even a bit of a Hébertists. I can repeat, for six hours at a time, watch in hand, superb things."

"Be serious," said Enjolras.

"I'm fierce," answered Grantaire.

Enjolras thought for a few seconds and gestured like a man making up his mind.

"Grantaire," he said gravely. "I agree to try you. You'll go to the Barriere du Maine."

Grantaire lived in a furnished room quite near the Café Musain. He went out and came back in five minutes. He had gone home to put on a Robespierre waistcoat.

"Red," he said as he came in, looking straight at Enjolras.

Then, with the flat of his huge hand, he smoothed the two scarlet points of his waistcoat over his breast.

And, going up to Enjolras, he whispered in his ear, "Don't worry."

He jammed down his hat resolutely and went out.


So yeah. You get the picture. R will do anything for E if E wants him to do it – especially if it's E that asks him specifically, not just a general part of going along with everyone, but he still is a major sass-monster right to E's face, and it is all very amazing and tragic. Later, E goes to check on R's progress and finds him at du Maine, playing fucking dominoes with the people he'd been sent to convert. What's weird is we don't get a reaction to this – the chapter ends with E just watching the scene play out and the dialogue of the game, no chastising of R, no resolution, resignation or confrontation. (Because of this, I like to imagine that R was winning them over in his own way, by drinking and playing with them and slipping things into conversation, and not that he simply got distracted and failed. But it is R, so unfortunately he probably did just fail.)

On the day of the revolution, Grantaire is having some breakfast wine with some of the others and they get a messenger from E. R is a sulky baby because E sent the message directly to one of the others and not to him. ("Enjolras disdains me," he muttered. "Enjolras said: 'Joly is ill, Grantaire is drunk.' It was to Bossuet that he sent Navet. If he had come for me, I would have followed him. So much the worse for Enjolras! I won't go to his funeral." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH no.) So basically he switches from wine to liquor and gets shitfaced while the others prepare to fight. Because the boys are basically still idiots, they end up building the barricade outside their wineshop, and when Enjolras arrives there, he tries to send Grantaire away, to sleep off his booze somewhere else, because, in E's opinion, R is “dishonouring” the barricade. E telling him off totally makes R shut down, stop fighting and sassing him, and he quietly begs to be allowed to stay there with E, to just sleep in the corner.


Grantaire, keeping his tender, troubled eyes fixed on him answered, "Let me sleep here -- until I die here."

Enjolras stared at him disdainfully.

"Grantaire, you're incapable of belief, of thought, of will, of life, and of death."

Grantaire replied gravely, "You'll see. You'll see."


R then passes the fuck out and sleeps through. The. Entire. Thing. He sleeps through the whole final day of the battle, through the barricades all falling. The National Guard chase off the students, the revolutionaries, and they box them up like rats in a trap inside the cafe, shooting at them through floors, which opens the chapter titled Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk – I told you that would be important! The last one left alive is Enjolras, they know he's the leader, and they corner him, defenceless and beautiful, in an upstairs room. He throws aside his broken gun and offers himself up to their guns honourably  and his nobility kind of chills everyone into silence, to the point where they don't want to do it. They lower their guns a bunch of times. They ask him if he wants his eyes bandaged, he says no. They ask him if he's sure it was him who killed their artillery sergeant, he says yes. “Perhaps it was of him that the witness spoke who said afterward before the court-martial, "Three was one insurgent whom I heard called Apollo." A National Guard who was aiming at Enjolras dropped his weapon, saying, "It is as though I'm about to shoot a flower."

When the room goes quiet, as the Guards are holding back from shooting E, R wakes up. “Noise does not rouse a drunken man; silence awakens him. The fall of everything around him only augmented Grantaire's prostration; the crumbling of all things was his lullaby. The sort of halt which the tumult underwent in the presence of Enjolras was a shock to this heavy slumber. It had the effect of a carriage going at full speed, which suddenly comes to a dead stop. The persons dozing within it wake up. Grantaire rose to his feet with a start, stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyes, stared, yawned, and understood.”

So what happens then? He comes over, unnoticed, and as the Guards are preparing to shoot again, he calls out to stop them. "Vive la République! I'm one of them. Count me in."


He repeated: "Long live the Republic!" crossed the room with a firm stride and placed himself in front of the guns beside Enjolras.
"Finish both of us at one blow," said he.
And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him:
"Do you permit it?"
Enjolras pressed his hand with a smile.
This smile was not ended when the report resounded.
Enjolras, pierced by eight bullets, remained leaning against the wall, as though the balls had nailed him there. Only, his head was bowed.
Grantaire fell at his feet, as though struck by a thunderbolt.


So, yeah. He wakes up, realises what the fuck is going on, and basically has no interest in living in a world without Enjolras, or in letting E die alone. He won't die for E's cause, but he will die for E himself, with E accepting him, holding his hand, smiling at each other.

ISN'T THAT JUST LOVELY AND CHEERFUL. So yeah. I don't think I need to really explain WHY this is just the most asnbdhvvdsmnjkjkqwg of relationships? If you have a soul and good taste, you ship, or at least, are intrigued, by E/R. I mean it isn't exactly subtle, especially in a 19th century religious novel. But yes. Where were we. Oh yes. The musical and the movie.

With the musical, a good director, who knows the book-canon, knows how to stage the Grantaire stuff – there are certain parts of songs/Enjolras's lines that should be directed TO him, and certain parts in group numbers that he must be the one to sing, including, of course, the bitter, cynical verse of Drink With Me. A director or actor who knows Grantaire knows how to basically play up this relationship, and the movie really does do that. Even though some of it was cut, I've read the script and there were a lot of stage directions pertaining to the E/R connection – ones that are still apparent are mainly, of course, in Red and Black, where Grantaire is mocking the shit out of Enjolras, incensing Marius while giving E these sassy-as-fuck looks because he KNOWS what Marius's mooning is doing to E. And then E sits Grantaire down and sings the “it is time for us all to decide who we are” at him and kind of chides him, which is the correct direction that verse should be taking – some lesser productions have E direct that bit at Marius, and it shouldn't be – it's directed at R, and then becomes all-encompassing to the group. The movie stages it perfectly, and later, in One Day More, Grantaire's reaction shot didn't make it in, but the stage direction on E's line of “will you take your place with me?” is 'from top of stairs, for Grantaire’s benefit' and then 'Grantaire rather reluctantly goes upstairs.'

And then. And then. The death scene. See, the thing is, in the musical, they don't really do the "Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk" scene. It's too complex, the show is too simple, and they basically just have all the boys get shot down on the barricade, including Grantaire. Enjolras dies last, always, and the traditional way it's done is that he falls, lying on his back hanging down the barricade, his red flag streaming out below him like blood. It is one of the play's most iconic images. This may be a good time, or a weird one, to mention that I actually wanted to call my first son Enjolras, for about five years in my teens, until I realised that it may be cursing him to a life of dismay in more ways than one.

Anyway. The movie. It does the book's death scene, and it ended me. The killing of the students is a lot more raw, visceral, less noble than in the traditional musical. They realise they've lost, they run, they try to get to safety, and the people of Paris, the ones they were trying to save, close their doors to the students. They get boxed in, they get shot through the floors, and Enjolras is cornered, alone, in the upper room. They don't do the dialogue, but Grantaire comes in, stops them, says “Long Live The Republic!” and then crosses the line to take his place beside Enjolras. E hoists the flag he still has wrapped around his fist, and they are shot together, die together. They're in front of an open window, so Enjolras does get his traditional stage-musical death shot of being splayed upside down with the red flag, but still. I NEVER expected the movie-musical to include their real death scene with this much thought into what it meant. Ever.

It turns out both Aaron Tveit and George Blagden, E and R respectively, used and became obsessed with the book-canon of their characters, both together and in general, and used it as a terrific acting resource. It really, really shows. Aaron has spoken about it in a couple of interviews, and George is extremely active on Twitter, is pretty much a shipper himself, and possibly doesn't know what he's getting himself into with fandom. But he tweets things like this:

That moment when consciousness returns to the drunk man who then realises he is about to lose everything he ever cared about in this world.

I mean, thanks, George, really. Thanks for that. I'll just go cry in a Fortress of Solitude now. It has actually been a really long time since I have seen a screen actor this obsessed with his own character, and his own character's canon. That kind of thing is like crack to me. So yeah, I am drowning in a well of Grantaire feels right now.

This is approximately 7000 words long so common sense dictates that I need to stop. But yes! Les Mis in general gets a big thumbs up from me, and I hope I have traumatised you with information you probably didn't know about one of the greatest (and most canon) queer ships of all time!


  1. Good review Natalie. Now I want to buy the soundtrack and can't wait to see this movie again! I wouldn't be surprised if it won the Oscar for best film of the year, because it’s one of the most powerful movie-going experiences of the year.

  2. This was a great and really enlightening review! I’m in the process of reading the novel right now, and I really enjoyed your insight on some of the characters. The best way to actually read reviews is when they’re actually written by people who are passionate about the source material, which you clearly are. While I was interested in reading it before, I am really looking forward to continuing now.
    Seeing as I watched the movie knowing only a few basic plot points it was nice to read how your opinions might differ seeing as you have something to compare it to. I agree with most of what you’ve said, especially where Cosette is concerned. I wasn’t as bothered by the close up solo scenes, but I will agree that it probably wasn’t necessary to repeat them for every one of them.
    Lastly, and quite randomly I assume, I just wanted to say I appreciate knowing that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like Helena Bonham Carter. I just think she does the same performance everywhere. I’m not implying that’s how you feel, just that I was surprised to enjoy here here as well.
    I’ll stop now. Sorry this comment got really long.

  3. I adored Les Mis. And I so agree, Eponine and Marius were by far the greatest things in the film. Except for maybe Aaron Tveit, who I am consequently in love with. It was so good! I want to go see it again. And again. And again.

    Also, you're awesome. I love Glee Chat and all you do! X

  4. I've just finished the part in the book where E and R die, and have been searching the internet wildly for people as devastated about it and as overly invested in their relationship as me, and then I found you ;) Lovely review, agreed with everything.