The precise amount of time you’ve been waiting for this film depends entirely upon how long it’s been since you first heard the score, or saw the stage show, or both. Suffice it to say, you feel like you’ve been imagining what this movie will look like inside your head for, well, forever. (For Lucky, it’s 20 years. For the Mick, it’s 18.)
That is exactly why you, Les Miserables: The Musical fan, are a very special breed of audience. You’ve memorized every inflection from that very contra-band YouTube video of your favorite Marius’ “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” You can rattle off lists of men who’ve starred as Enjolras the way many men recite the starting line-up of their favorite sports team. Indeed, you sort of think of the cast of Les Miz as your favorite sports team, maybe ever. You can identify Courfeyrac. Shit, you know how to spell Courfeyrac.
And yes. You’re going to feel every line Tom Hooper and co. have moved or changed. Every line they dropped. But you know what else? You’re going to lose your ever-loving fangirl/guy mind in that theater on the 25th. Probably a hojillion times over. We’re here to help you prepare by compiling a list of mind-melting moments in Les Miserables: The Movie Musical. Gird your loins.
ps. In case you’re one of four people on earth who doesn’t already know this entire 150-year-old tale, we’re about to spoil your faces off. So. You’ve been warned.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #01
Wait, you mean, they’re proving Jean Valjean is strong? – Remember that messy moment in the stage musical where Mayor Jean Valjean picks up that cart—who are we kidding, of course you do!—and Javert says it reminds him of the strongest man he ever knew who was a convict? And we’re all supposed to be like “OH SHIT HE’S ON TO MAYOR JEAN VALJEAN’S SECRET!!” And like, we all kind of were, except… we had no idea that Jean Valjean was strong to begin with, let alone how/why Inspector Javert would have known that about a lowly former convict? So it was kind of unclear but we were just going to have to trust the writers anyway? Well. That’s no more. Because we all get to see underfed, bloody-scalped, dirty convict Valjean be magically strong and pick up some heavy shit in the very first scene. Clearly someone had Wheaties for breakfast that morning, and now, everything in France makes sense again.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #02
Colm Wilkinson is all up in Digne – Yes, he still has that weird/awesome cadence to his vocal stylings. And yes, he still looks exactly like Act II’s Old Jean Valjean has looked in your imagination since you were a child. Which is all to say, yes, you will be disgustingly happy to see his face beside Hugh Jackman’s – two landmark Valjeans, side by side. You might even start crying, right there in scene two of this damn movie. Hopefully you’ll have lots of tissues on hand.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #03
It’s a movie. So you can see Fantine actually working. And we do mean working. – In the novel, Fantine’s various professions are always pretty clear. On the stage, it always just kind of seemed like she spent her days singing, reading letters, and fighting with the other bitches in the factory, which frankly made her subsequent termination from said factory seem kind of unsurprising. But in the film, you can actually see her working, and you can see what she’s working on, which feels like a weird, low-watt revelation. She’s working on beads. The Mick continues to insist that she’s making rosaries, which does seem sort of obviously Hugo-esque in steamroller-y symbolism, but that’s not what she’s doing. She’s making the beads. Trust, it’s in the book. How do you make beads? We don’t know. Nor do we really know what the references to “grafting” are all about in “At the End of the Day,” but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with making beads, and is probably a British thing, like the phrase “the Foreman is always on heat,” but at least it’s fairly clear what that means. Anyway, you see the beads in this movie. After she realizes that there’s no money in arts and crafts, we also witness Fantine being semi-raped by one of her customers, including his post-orgasmic sigh, which is just horrifying for a musical that we loved when we were 11.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #04
Wait, did I forget this scene with Javert trying to get own self fired? – So there’s this scene where Javert goes to see Mayor Jean Valjean in his office above the factory and like, tries to surrender his sword/give up his job, because he thinks he has just broked his own personal code of honor by falsely accusing Monsieur le Maire of being a secret ex-con. Anyway, events tangentially related to this happen in the stage version, and they’re singing some rhyme-y words along to actual music and for a whole hot minute you’re going to think you’ve totally lost your marbles and forgotten an entire scene from the musical. But trust us, you haven’t lost your mind. The other day at a press conference Tom Hooper told us that he found this in the book and added it to the movie. You know. To show that Javert really did take his code of honor seriously. Just in case you you’re a total n00b and didn’t already know about how later Javert throws his whole self off a bridge because he can’t cope with a world where he was wrong about how honor goes.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #05
In keeping with literary precedent, Fantine sells her teefs once more. – In every version of the stage show we’ve ever seen or heard, except for the French versions, go figs, Fantine sells her hair and her locket and eventually her whole person, but the English-language version of the musical has always forgone one of Victor Hugo’s choicier plot points: That Fantine also sells her teeth. You know why they left this out of the musical? Because no one has ever wanted to see or hear any actress, ever, toothlessly lisp the line “For God’s sake, please stay ’til I am sleeping.” Because that’s an SNL skit, not a Tony-winning musical. But through the miracle of modern cinema and a lot of suspension of disbelief, it’s back in the movie.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #06
Holy shit that’s Frances Rufelle’s voice! But where is it coming from?! – Because Cameron Mackintosh knew just exactly how your fangirl heart would swell if the original Eponine was featured in this here flick, we all get a glorious few moments of Frances Rufelle being a hooker. Except. At first, it was hard to tell exactly which hooker she was. Sure, the costume and makeup department probably deserves a lot of credit for this feat of artistry. And maybe Rufelle should get credit for acting so good that she actually disappeared into her new role. But shit, it was crazy knowing you could hear the True Eponine of Your Heart and yet, you couldn’t find her on the damn screen. Watch out for that moment her head pops up right beside Pimp Daniel Evans’ shoulder… That’s when we cheered loudest for the only girl who understood us in junior high school.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #07
Bertie Carvel and Daniel Evans don’t even go here, and yet they do. – You know who’s never been in Les Miserables for a minute of his life? Soon-to-be Broadway staaaah Bertie Carvel. Until now, because he’s in this damn movie. Good luck if you can spot him, though. We couldn’t, having only ever seen him in Matilda, dressed as a woman wearing a too-tight bun and knee socks. But he’s there. Same goes for Tony nominee Daniel Evans, who is apparently in this movie because he’s cute, talented, British, and good at musicals. Clearly Cameron Mackintosh casts his movies… just like we do in our minds.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #08
Oh shit, Anne Hathaway! – Look, we got it, you’re so tired of hearing about how Anne Hathaway stopped eating and sucked weight like a wrestler and suffered for her art so she could be the best Fantine that ever there was that you want to punch her in her overlarge mouth. And you’re nervous as fuck, cause you heard that totally unmixed cut of the trailer a few months ago and she sounded like hell, and like… Patti LuPone, man. Patti LuPone. But trust us. You are about to have your mind blown. And not just because of “I Dreamed A Dream.” Anne is actually kind of perfect.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #09
Valjean is barechested. Not in that way, unfortunately. – So, they cut the line about the brand on Valjean’s chest. That’s because it’s not on his chest anymore. It’s on his wrist now, which Tom Hooper probably changed for some dull reason of logic or history. Regardless, it deprives us of a cinematic moment where Hugh Jackman tears his shirt open while simultaneously bursting into song. And just… fuck that.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #10
That moment where the wrongly-accused convict is like, HOLY SHIT. – So we totally love the moment where Valjean bursts into the courtroom to exhonorate the wrongly-accused convict. Mostly we love it because of the actor playing the convict, who takes one look at Valjean and gets this look on his face like, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? 1. We feel the same way! 2. That actor knew this was his only screen moment and he had to make it good. 3. We predict this moment will be in Tumblr memes for decades.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #11
Holy balls, the confrontation! – Remember how in the confrontation 24601 and Javert like… sing really loudly at each other about how they’re morally superior and they have shit to do and so the other one of them needs to stand down? And like, you’re mostly just trying really hard to figure out who’s saying what? Yeah. Not in the movie. Because in the movie it’s a motherfucking sword fight. And just when you think Jean Valjean is sunk, he pulls the most badass, unexpected move ever, and the whole thing is so fucking awesome you can’t even remember how it happened in the stage version. Because it feels like something real is at stake here. Like, it’s really life or death. And holy hell, you just don’t ever want to see it happen any other way again.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #12
Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen are still basically in Sweeney Todd. – Remember that time Mrs. Lovett and Pirelli poisoned Sweeney in his sleep, got hitched and moved to France? Yeah, that’s this movie. Helena Bonham Carter still has things nesting in her hair. Sasha is still putting on weird accents that are not accurate, sensible, intelligible, or really even worth it for comedy’s or sanity’s sake. But they’re famous and they’re doing it anyway and this is the way Hollywood happens.
Fangirl Mind Melter #13
The new song is so fucking bad you guys – At the aforementioned press conference, Tom Hooper had a lovely explanation for how the new song really underscores Jean Valjean’s second epiphany – this one about love – and gives weight to his difficulty letting go of Cosette in Act II. But like, it’s time for some real talk, team. This song sucks. Like, good luck not laughing out loud at the terrible lyrics while you’re in the theater.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #14
At this performance, the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man will be played by Javert. – So, there’s a thing in this movie where Javert apparently likes to look out over the gleaming rooftops of Paris, because he spends a lot of time on the roof, hanging perilously close to the edge and stuff. Because it apparently makes a nice visual parallel for what happens to him later on. You know, the whole business with the bridge. Too bad it makes no sense, seems kind of unfeasible, and just makes Javert seem like he has too much time on his hands. In the stage musical, where he’s the only cop in France, there was a lot of work and singing to be done.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #15
HOLY SHIT HERE COMES AARONJOLRAS TVEIT – We actually physically reacted to seeing Broadway’s golden dreamboat Aaron Tveit all Aaronjolrasing it up on the big screen for the first time. Dancing in our seats, gasping inappropriately, etc. Prepare yourself. Stuff a sock in your mouth, have a paper bag on hand to breathe into, something. It’s real and it’s glorious.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #16
Killian and Fra and Allistair, oh my! – If you’ve paid even passing attention to the West End cast of this show at any point in the past few years, you know who Killian Donnelly, Fra Fee and Allistair Brammer are. (If you haven’t, read this.) It’s damn thrilling to see them up on screen. (We’d wager if you’re a Brit, you’re as excited to see them as we were to see Aaronjolras.) Also, the coolest part of all is that you don’t just get a passing second of singing here or there, you actually get to see these fools act. And they act real good. Broadway fangirls, get ready to fall in love. Brits, try not to interrupt everyone else’s movie experience by screaming your faces off in sheer elation.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #17
Graintaire never has to put the bottle down – Because that line got cut. You’ll miss it. But like, Grantaire probably didn’t miss it. And really, who are we to begrudge the man his booze before he dies?
Fangirl Mind-Melter #18
One more day before the storm, at the barricades of Aaron Tveit’s abs, I mean, freedom. – Aaron Tveit is the whole point of this movie. Fin.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #19
Eponine ties up her boobs. – In the musical, you see Eponine dressed like a boy. In the movie, you see her getting that way. It’s a poignant detail, her reverse-Yentl moment, when we’re reminded of her girl-ness – the very thing that Marius can’t see in her. And then, once you see it, you think for the thousandth time that he has pretty bad taste in women.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #20
The French soldiers have faces! – Remember when the French soldiers were just disembodied voices shouting melodiously over the barricade? Those days are gone. These soldiers are whole people with faces and feelings and everything. One of them – our favorite one, obvs – is Hadley Fraser. And he will slay you with his good acting just before he slays all the barricade boys. But in all seriousness, seeing the soldiers up close, nose to nose with barricade boys who are hardly younger than them, really gives the uprising a sense of gravity and depth that was sorely lacking on stage.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #21
The Tale of the Tiny Barricade, or, Hey, Why Are You Fighting in My House? – One of the things that plays beautifully in this movie is the scale of the barricade. For the first time, you really have a proportionate sense of how terribly outnumbered the students were, and how lame-ass their matchstick fortifications really were. If Cameron Mackintosh had the courage to make the barricade massive onstage – a thing that required its own entrance and exit music; a thing that legitimately changed theater – Tom Hooper had the courage to make it small. Not like, Spinal Tap small, but small in the sense that its builders were schoolboys with no military training living on nothing but alcohol and bravado. It’s cool, as is the decision to drive the badly beaten students off the shards of their barricade and into the surrounding houses. It gives the scene twisty dimension that could never be achievable onstage – the exact thing that a movie musical should do.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #22
Killian and Samantha err, Combeferre and Eponine 4 Eva! – After Eponine dies singing/saving Marius’ life, keep your eyes peeled. Samantha Barks’ real life leading man, Killian Donnelly, gets to carry her tiny, limp body off screen. It’s disturbingly sweet.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #23
Gavroche gets shot… in the face. – The advent of the Tiny Barricade means that everything in the film’s revolution scenes feels smaller and more intimate than it ever did on stage — including Garvoche’s harrowing, close-range death. Also, the young, baby-tough Daniel Huttlestone is such a doll — and so much cuter than 90% of the wannabe Artful Dodgers who have played Gavroche onstage — that this moment is particularly painful. Clutch thy hankies close, ladies.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #24
Wait, Gavroche is whose brother?! – Most Les Miz devotees know Gavroche’s last name is Thenardier and his sister is Eponine, so why is Courfeyrac cuddling his tiny dead body and wailing like he’s just lost a brother? Confusing, Tom Hooper. We’ll forgive you and chalk it up to the sense brotherhood amongst l’ABC barricade boys, but it’s still weird.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #25
HADLEY FRASER SHOOTS AARON TVEIT IN THE FACE! – Okay. So it’s technically a commander in the French Army shooting Rebel Enjolras in the face. But like. All you’re going to see is West End Star/Heartthrob Hadley Fraser pointing a shotgun at Broadway Star/Heartthrob Aaron Tveit’s mug and you are going to lose your mind for a hot second. Probably because they both look beautiful when Aaronjolras dies.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #26
Ladies and gentleman, the bloody, epic defenestration of Aaron Tveit. – Right before everyone’s about to die on the barricade, you will have this thought: Do not fail me now, Tom Hooper. Because the death of Enjolras is a kind of clincher in the stage show, the upside-down exclamation point following lot of bloody struggle wherein every character you kind of like – or want to shag – ends up in a crumpled heap pinned under a chair or something. Enjolras, stage or screen, if he must leave us, had better go out blazing. And in the movie, he really does. Instead of hanging off the barricade with his innocuous-seeming bloody nose – like he got it at softball practice or something – Enjolras ends up cantilevered out a third-story window, full of bullets and broken glass, the famous red flag as his security blanket. It’s astonishingly crazy and satisfying and horrible – especially because it’s Gabe Goodman they’ve somehow mistakenly strung up there.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #27
There’s shit in the sewer. – You guys, there’s shit in the sewer. Having been mislead for decades by a musical that taught us that there was no actual shit in the sewer – only foggy light, a scrim, and several clear, well-lit paths marked by spike tape – this was a terrible shock. It was even more of a shock when we saw the shitty contents of those shitty sewers smeared all over Jean Valjean and Marius, including their faces. That’s faces in feces, in case you’re keeping track. At certain times, it just looks like a nourishing mud mask, so in order to keep ourselves from vomming or overthinking, we’re just referring to this scene as Marius’s Day at the Spa.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #28
Let’s cut some stuff for the sake of expediency, not just because everyone’s getting paid overtime. – Thenardier’s sewer song is gone. Probably because it’s hard to sing with shit in your mouth. So is most of Turning, but that’s because that song was basically just shit.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #29
OMG Javert cracks in half – On stage Javert’s suicide is theatrical. It involves dramatic lighting and moving set pieces. But since movies—even ones where people sing all their words—tend to trade more in reality, well. Things are decidedly less artistic. When Javert jumps off that bridge and lands on an dam or lock or partially submerged wall of some sort… it’s… well, you’re going to hear his whole self get broken. Badly.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #30
WTF, Empty Chairs is suddenly a good song – For years we’ve endured “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” because we understood that romantic hero Marius needed a song. But like. Mostly we were all just wishing we could hear Enjolras belt about liberty again. Except… you won’t be wishing that any more. Not after Eddie Redmayne crushes every last emotion out of “Empty Chairs.” You’ll just be weeping.
Fangirl Mind-Melter #31
The blonde can stay. – There are a lot of miracles in this movie, but here’s our favorite: Cosette didn’t make us want to stab her all that much. Dull as a dairy cow, this character does nothing of note except fret, shiver, and wear hats. And furthering Victor Hugo’s point that there is truly no justice, she doesn’t even die. But in the film, Amanda Seyfried manages to be sweet without being cloying, and she sings nicely enough.