Hey, remember how on February 1st I was all, “next week, I’ll put up part 2 of my Les Mis thing!”
So here’s Part the Next, and Part the Third will be arriving at some point in the future. That’s about as firm a deadline as I can give you. Enjoy.
We open 8 years later with people singing about how much their lives suck, just in case you forgot what you were watching. It’s Les Mis. Mis is short for Misery.
Here, we meet Fantine, a down-on-her luck miserable person working in a factory with several most miserable people. In a plot twist that will surprise absolutely no one, their boss is somewhat of a total fuck nugget.
Charming. The foreman is also approximately 20 feet tall, what the hell?
The workers immediately take to picking on Fantine, mainly just to make her life harder.
Blue lady: “Oh, you have an illegitimate child tucked away somewhere, do you? I consider it my God-given duty to punish you through song.”
Luckily, the boss, and the hero of our story, Jean Valjean rushes to the scene.
Only to immediately pass the buck back to the foreman.
Way to go, Valjean. Fantine, who not only will not have sex with the foreman, but has a child and therefore must, at some point in the past, have had sex with another man who is not the foreman, the whore, is immediately fired.
Having been branded a whore, and this being 19th Century France, there is only one thing Fantine can now do.
She becomes an actual whore.
Fantine’s story in the book is, I think, the most depressing thing I have ever read. I feel a list coming on.
- abandoned by lover
- while pregnant
- to raise the baby by herself
- unable to do so, she puts the baby into the care of another family
- who, unbeknownst to her, are horrible horrible people
- they demand money from her
- so she works and works and works to send money for her daughter to people who don’t need it and won’t use it for her daughter anyway
- so she’s alone in the world, without even the company of her own daughter, working for pittance which won’t even go to good use. but at least she has her health. and her teeth.
- HA! She is fired from her job for no real reason except she’s not slutty enough for the foreman and everyone else is too busy looking out for themselves to take her side
- so she turns to prostitution for money
- she is debased and physically, mentally, and emotionally abused
- she sells her body for money, her hair for money, her teeth for money.
- then she loses her health
- on her sick bed, she doesn’t even survive long enough to say goodbye to her daughter.
And you think you had it bad, Sirius Black.
Aw, Fantine. I wish I could say things will get better. But they really, really won’t.
And now it is time for Lovely ladies.
The guys give it their all, though.
Sigh. You know a musical is depressing when its comic relief songs involve swindling, abuse, and prostitution. Although I guess a title that literally translates to “The Miserable People” is also a bit of a giveaway.
Fantine sells her hair, and a guy immediately decides that she is the whole he must have. He must have been attracted by the light glancing off her skull.
A dandy comes around, asking after Fantine. He is directed to her by a Lovely Lady who calles her “A bit of skirt, she’s the one sold her hair.”
Well, yes, I should think that much was obvious.
The guy who plays the rich asshole does a great job. I’m simultaneously disgusted and fascinated by him.
So he pushes himself on Fantine, who doesn’t want anything to do with him because even her utter desperation has limits (WE’LL SEE WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT THAT), and winds up injuring him as she pushes him away.
Good god, this musical.
OH GOODIE, JAVERT’S HERE! This can only go well.
The rich dick ponces around explaining that he was merely passing by when this LOONY attacked him out of nowhere for no reason, and he just can’t understand why people keep doing that.
Javert, would you believe it, I was walking through the park…
“When this prostitute attacked myeh!” Myeh! He actually says MYEH! Oh, he’s wonderfully horrible.
Fantine pleads mercy for her daughter, and then some dramatic music happens.
I said above, I love these sung-through productions, but the lack of actual moving characters has several obvious drawbacks, including the fact that Javert appears to be saying that he has only known one other who could rescue a prostitute, then stand still while the horn section plays something that sounds vaguely like Star Wars, and that seems like an awfully specific comparison to draw.
For those who don’t know, Javert has just rescued a man trapped under a heavy object, thus reminding Javert of this super strong hunk he once knew back in prison…
Valjean gives him the non-suspicious shifty eyes, and Javert leaves. But even 8 years later, Will Farrell’s guilt trip rings through time and space, and Valjean knows he has to turn himself in. Although, if there’s a brand on the skin, wouldn’t Javert just see that it’s not there on the other guy and release him? I’m being dense now, aren’t I?
Anyway, Fantine dies in Valjean’s…general area (seriously, this show has no staging) because god has run out of ways to torture here on earth and is bored now.
Javert has had quite enough of this and scares the ever-loving shit out of everyone by singing at Valjean as though he totally knew it was him all along, and what are you talking about arrested the wrong man? Who said “this time there will be no mistake?” And screw the random dead woman! Because Javert’s timing is impeccable (seriously, wait until you see the rest of the show).
They sing at each other some more, plainly not listening to a word the other is saying.
Valjean crosses his heart and hopes to die that he’s just going to go rescue the dead prostitute’s daughter quickly, and he’ll be right back, and then Javert can have his way with him, pinky swear. Javert is understandably skeptical about this, but I think Valjean would be as good as his word as long as no one waves any bread in his face.
That’s why Alfie Bo is my favourite Valjean
So Valjean tenderly tells Fantine’s body that he’ll make sure Cosette is safe and cared for while Javert hilariously yells some more about stalking him for the rest of time. Seriously, dude – READ THE ROOM.
And that is all for now! Again, thanks to Patrick for helping me put it together.
I’m putting this up in parts, because they’ve taken down the Youtube videos now, and I’m not finished some of the later parts.
I adore musicals. In the same way I like Quentin Tarantino films, V for Vendetta, and Pushing Daisies, I adore heightened realities where everything works out either perfectly, or perfectly wrong, where everything is coloured beautifully and people can rhyme in harmony on the spur of any moment.
So sung-through musicals, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, are top of the top, because if you’re going to do something, do it ALL THE WAY.
I recently (HAHAHAHA this is no longer true) got very into Les Miserables, and I have had the songs stuck in my head for days (years). Now, for those who don’t know, Les Miserables is the most depressing musical of all time, in which everyone is first tortured by fate, then tortured by actual people, and then they die. It is SO relentlessly depressing it is actually hilarious. So while I’ve had the songs and stories and characters trapped in my brain, I have also had a never-ending stream of peanut gallery commentating happening in the background of my mind, and in order to shut it up, I decided to put pen to paper, or hand to keyboard, and do a virtual MST3King of the 25th Anniversary edition of the musical, as that is the version I’ve enjoyed the most (oh, sue me).
Because it’s not like I have work or a job or a life to keep me occupied, or anything.
The opening lyrics begin:
Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye/Look down, look down, you’re here until you die
…thus effectively setting the tone for the rest of the musical. So if you were expecting Hairspray or Grease (ALL MUSICALS ARE HAPPINESS AND SUNSHINE; I know this because there is singing), and the title wasn’t enough to tip you off, I’d leave now.
Anyway, so we open on Bagne prison in Toulon, France. It’s 1815, so these guys are working the chain gang, rather than painting clown pictures and getting liberal arts degrees. Surprisingly, none of them are thrilled with this arrangement.
It was at this point, when I first watched the musical, that I went: “Oh! Shit.” (Read: ok, they’re not kidding around.)
This is my favourite guy! Look how earnest he is. Plus, then the brass section gets going and I just die.
Prison guard Javert enters to rain on the parade (because before he came along, they were doing just fine), calling for the parole of prisoner 24601.
Javert goes “What? HAHAHA. No,” and calls him names, like “thief.”
Valjean, I am going to cut you some slack because English should not be your first language, but “stealing” = “thieving”.
There. That’s the argument I would have started with.
Javert is not interested. He orders Valjean not to forget his name, and then proceeds to spend the rest of the musical harassing him and referring to himself in the third person (tm Michael).
Carrying his yellow ticket of leave, Valjean ventures out to reacquaint himself with the world.
The world, however, wastes no time in letting Valjean know it still doesn’t care for him, because this is a long ass play, and we’ve got a lot of story to get to.
Some business man refuses to pay Valjean in full because he was a prisoner. Now, this I do not (did not) understand – did Valjean wave around this yellow card when applying for employment? Might I suggest he simply hide it in his pocket next time?
Valjean has a temper tantrum about the frustrations of a penal system that gobbles up minor and major offenders alike and maroons them on a plane of existence, where badness is punished, but goodness is forever out of reach by virtue of being placed in said system in the first place, because musicals are for light entertainment. After he’s done whining, he runs straight into literally the last person you would expect to see in 19th century France.
Bishop Will Farrel offers Valjean wine, bed, and bread, out of naught but the goodness of his heart. Poor man doesn’t know that bread is Valjean’s greatest weakness. Sure enough, Valjean gives in to temptation, stealing some silver (and, I can only assume, MORE BREAD) and runs.
Why? Because it worked so well last time?
Needless to say, he is caught. Immediately.
Valjean, you are not very good at this. Might I suggest a different hobby?
But soft! What light through yonder Bishop breaks? He has come to place Valjean under the Jewish mother of all guilt trips!
Will Farrell tells the policemen that of course he gave Valjean that silver (AND THAT BREAD), but also, here, have some more stuff.
I really do love the bishop, especially in the book, he’s I think my second favourite character after Valjean, but seriously, what does a man have to do to piss him off? If you shot the bishop’s son, he would apologise for the inconvenience pulling the trigger must have had on your finger, thank you for putting the boy out of his misery, and offer you a better gun, that you may shoot straighter next time.
Anyway, so Will Farrell, who could teach my mother a thing or two about guilt, tells Valjean to use the stolen goods as a stepping stone for living an honest life. And instead of trying to see what he can get Farrell to give him if he doesn’t (maybe some gold? or MORE BREAD?), Valjean follows the good man’s word, and breaks his parole.
I’m not sure “use this precious silver to become an honest man” = “break parole,” but whatever.
Yes, don’t worry about that, it’s a common side effect of guilt tripping.
In short, Valjean has a minor emotional breakdown, an identity crisis, and hates the world some more, but eventually decides to rip up that ticket (SERIOUSLY, DOES THIS TICKET SYSTEM SEEM FAULTY TO ANYONE ELSE?) and thus ends the prologue.
I’ll put up Part the Next next Friday.