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Some parents cry, I fell asleep: Les Misery of watching Les Misérables

As the film adaptation hits our screens, is it really worth watching?
  • @andywestradio

Unfortunately, I am unable to review 40 per cent of Les Misérables le movie because I fell asleep after about an hour of it, much to the chagrin of my date. I woke up again about half an hour before the director decided to put it out of its Les Misery. I calculate that I was asleep for about three hours. My dream, by the way, was beautifully realised and sumptuously costumed and Ryan Phillippe spared nothing.

Les Misérables, however, is every bit as long and arduous as the French Revolution itself. Had I been given a guillotine I would gladly have stuck my head in it, though only after finishing my bag of Revels which were delicious.I will begin by saying that Anne Hathaway as Fantine was brilliant; all shredded nerves, desperate glances, hopeless tears and a runny nose like a cross between Sinead O'Connor in Nothing Compares and that dead rabbit from Watership Down.

Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was brutal. Her huge eyes were bloodshot, her sumptuous lips, flaked and quivering, her usually-perfect skin blotched, ghostly and caught in an agony of emotional torment. Here was an actress in her prime willingly looking like a right old mess on the big screen. She won my respect in that moment and I think she might just win yours too...as well as an Oscar. Is this the moment everyone stops hating Anne Hathaway? Keira Knightley will be jealous! Unfortunately, the scene came too soon and the remaining eight hours failed to match its power.

I shan’t say much of Hugh Jackman. His performance as Jean Valjean was well good.

On to the stuff that sent me into a coma. Firstly the little blonde girl had all the charisma of a balloon and I wanted her to be shot by Javert. She wasn’t, but fortunately she quickly metamorphosed into a handkerchief with eyes played by Amanda Seyfried. Meanwhile the almost identical little blonde boy seemed to have based his character on Fagin’s urchins from Oliver! Artful Dodger he was. Artful performer he was not. In reality, he managed to be about as cockney as Dick van Dyke which is particularly unfortunate as his character is supposed to be French. I have been to Paris and I have never heard anyone say ‘Bon-jew-ar mee owld macka ‘ow are ya?’ Does it bother the French that they are made to sound like Pat Butcher? I suspect the answer is, ‘Oui!’ Thankfully, this smug little character was eventually shot, so some welcome relief there.

It is, of course, a tragic footnote that Helena Bonham Carter's standing as an actress died during the filming of Les Misérables and the director was forced to copy and paste every other performance she has ever given into each clownish duet with the sock puppet that is Sacha Baron Cohen. Their scenes certainly brought some much-needed brevity to the 17-hour weep-fest and I can’t really criticise Helena for her comic timing or her bloody gorgeous face but I just wish she would stop playing the same character over and over again. Doesn’t she get bored? I do. Are you listening Helena? And Johnny Depp while I’m at it. I’m bored with you both! Do something different or get the HELL off my screen.

Now then. The fat bloke from Gladiator was the only truly brilliant vocalist of the troupe. I have never seen the musical but his was the greatest challenge of all, it seemed to me, because every one of his songs was written off-key! Nonetheless, he managed to hit every bum note perfectly. My only disappointment was that he took quite such a long time to tip himself off the weir.

I ought to say that the film was beautiful to look at. It had the quirky sweeping shots of Chocolat and Moulin Rouge, which sucked you into the shadowy, cartoonish grime of revolutionary Paris. The only bum note came at the very beginning of the very opening scene as the camera swoops in on a chain gang hauling a great warship into the dry docks. If they could make Jurassic Park in 1993, why was this vital first shot rendered so unconvincingly? Did they use wax crayons? I half expected a snowman with a satsuma for a nose to fly past.

Speaking of the visuals, the best looking bloke in this film is a soldier who gets pick-pocketed by Madame Thenardier about half way through but clearly we are supposed to get sticky over Marius. Well, if you stretched satin over cutlery, you would get Eddie Redmayne: an angular actor who reminded me of Lip from Shameless. If his voice had been a woodwind instrument I would have put it over my knee and snapped it but there is something strangely beguiling about his acid features and his final scene in the pouring rain with Éponine is heartfelt and intense. He certainly improves with hydration.

And that is when I fell asleep again. By then, the Les Tres Misérables had coughed up around fifty endless, sobbing farewells, all of them sung to one quavering dirge or another, and most of them thoroughly tiresome. I finally awoke just in time to catch the spectacular final scene as it erupted in a crescendo of cupboards. I don’t honestly know what happened while I was asleep but I can only assume Debenhams have a sale on.

This film is certain to be a huge success and plump, single women in offices around the country will, no doubt, be imploring their colleagues to go and see it. My advice would be this: watch it until Anne Hathaway slips from the musical coil and then get the hell out of there. If Les Misérables taught me anything, it is that life is too short and too miserable to waste it…watching Les Misérables.