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.