I love Les Miz because, like so many great works of art, half of my relatives, and all real estate transactions, it is insane. Here are only a few of the reasons for my hopeless infatuation:
1. I love Les Miz because while it’s a movie about French history, as far as I could tell, there isn’t a single French actor in it. I also love that while everyone in the movie speaks English, the producers haven’t translated the title, which means something like The Wretched. Les Miz just sounds so much more appealing, like it’s the name of a saucy Folies Bergère-style revue in Vegas.
2. Of course I love Anne Hathaway, who’s spectacular as Fantine, the tragic young prostitute. I love Anne because even while she’s singing her guts out in an alley, she’s still a spunky, irresistible American gal. She is betrayed by her lover, forced to abandon her child, and shoved into whoredom, but she sobs the most when she has to get her hair cut. Anne also sells her teeth, but only her rear molars, because jack-o’-lanterns don’t get Oscar nods.
3. I love every second of Les Miz, but I wish the movie had dramatized the incident that kicks off the plot, when the story’s hero, the noble Jean Valjean, steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family and gets sentenced to 19 years in jail. I wanted to see the police burst into the Valjean kitchen, just as the family was sitting down to brunch, because then the movie could’ve been called French Toast.
4. I love Hugh Jackman because, as Valjean, he starts off the movie as a desperate, emaciated prisoner who still manages to hoist an enormous wooden pole onto his shoulders, creating an image that recalls both the agony of Jesus and the early films of Arnold Schwarzenegger. While Hugh is supremely talented, I did have flashes of Arnold in the role, griping, ”So I haff stolen de bread, so vat?”
5. Hugh’s adversary, the relentless policeman Javert, is played by Russell Crowe, whom I love because he’s costumed and photographed to look as slim as possible. He wears long, high-waisted military overcoats and he’s often shot from a distance; the movie uses the same tricks as the Jessica Simpson Weight Watchers ads, and I kept waiting for Russell to wear a gauzy blouse over a black tank top with a wide leather belt. This, of course, led me to imagine Jessica as Fantine, singing ”I Dreamed a Dream” while slumped outside a Dunkin’ Donuts.
6. My newest heartthrob is Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, the movie’s hotheaded student revolutionary. Eddie is dewy and adorable, especially when he’s wounded and Hugh has to carry him through the sewers of Paris, like a scrumptious, ginger-haired shoulder bag. Eddie is wiry and freckle-faced and brash, so all I kept thinking was ”Hollywood, here’s your new Pippi Longstocking.”
7. When I saw Les Miz on Broadway, I couldn’t understand the story, but I was still a weeping mess. During the movie I completely followed the plot, which is every bit as loony as Django Unchained, which I also adored. In fact, I’ve been picturing Les Miz if it had been directed by Quentin Tarantino, because that way, after each song the characters would get their heads blown off.
8. I love Les Miz for its spiritual side, because when a major character dies, he’s welcomed into heaven by a freshened-up Anne Hathaway, over-enunciating the word God in a spotless white linen outfit, as if she’s a New Age flight attendant for the afterlife.
9. The more raucous moments of Les Miz are provided by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, playing thieving, scuzzy innkeepers. I feel that Helena and Sacha should be allowed to visit every movie, and not just because, like me, they both have three names, but because they always promise a dirty good time. I read an interview where Sacha said that he auditioned for Les Miz with a few numbers from Fiddler on the Roof (he’d played Tevye in college). I would kill to see Sacha’s Tevye, and maybe his Mame, and Helena in The Sound of Music, because she’d be the first Maria to gleefully hand over the von Trapps to the Gestapo.
10. I love Les Miz because it’s upset so many people, from the serious critics who just can’t wrap their knotted little brains around warbling French convicts, to the squealing folks in the Broadway chat rooms, who can’t understand why Bernadette Peters wasn’t cast as Valjean. I love Les Miz because it’s about how, when you’re faced with the colossal injustice of the entire universe, all you can do is wipe the sewage off your face, unleash a power ballad, and hope for at least a Golden Globe. I love Les Miz because it expresses the passage of time entirely through wigs, and because it teaches us the most important Hollywood lesson of all, which is that it’s always entertaining to watch attractive people suffer, if you ask me.