If you’ve read my little biography or my about me, you should know that I love a good musical. For some reason, whenever random people burst out into a song that random people on the street magically know the lyrics and dance moves to, my soul feels a little better. Songs are a great way to express oneself and also tell a great story. My favorite musical happens to be based on one of the hardest, most difficult novels I have ever read (and I only read the abridged version), Les Miserables. With a movie now being made based on the musical, Kim and I have had many discussions about the musical and how it will translate to the big screen. There are a lot of differences between the novel and the musical, so it will hopefully be unlike any other movie version of Les Miserables.
One of the biggest differences between the novel and the musical is the characterizations of the characters, in particular the female characters and the female leads, Fantine, Eponine, and Cosette. All of these characters play a crucial part in the different stories and interaction with the main character, Jean Valjean.
Cosette and Eponine are two of the younger females and are polar opposites both in the novel and the musical. In the novel Cosette is someone who is charitable; she volunteers with the homeless and actually considers becoming a nun because of her charitable nature. She is very sweet and naive, but knows more about the world than musical Cosette. Musical Cosette is very unlikable (at least to me). She is made even more naïve, devoid of all personality, and comes off too Disney princess-esque. I feel like she should have animated birds follow her and she should have a friend who is a talking rabbit. I don’t know if it’s done intentionally, but she just seems so robot-like. On the other hand, Eponine is portrayed in the reverse. In the novel she is described as having a voice similar to nails on a chalkboard and is very selfish. She is part of her father’s gang, who offers to help Marius get to Cosette, but has an ulterior motive. When she is killed, she says she took the bullet because she knew Marius wasn’t very strong and unlikely to survive the rebellion, adding that they would be together in heaven. Eponine in the musical, on the other hand, is extremely likeable. Many people who see the musical feel she is a better fit for Marius than Cosette, as Marius and Cosette have more of a platonic relationship which happens to be flirtatious at points.
One of the characters that is most interesting, heartbreaking, and has an all around great story is Fantine. Her character’s back story is discussed more in the book than in the musical, in the sense that it goes into such detail as her past before she just shows up on the scene. The novel goes into detail about how she and her friends fall in love with four friends, spend the most romantic summer in the French countryside, and how the four friends all leave their girls in the middle of the night. All the girls take it lightly and laugh it off, but Fantine is devastated. She soon finds out she’s pregnant with his child and eventually gives the baby up to the Thénardiers when she sees their children playing happily. As part of the deal, she is required to send 10 francs per month for necessities for Fantine. What she doesn’t know is that the Thénardiers take her money and force her daughter, Cosette, into labor. She gives everything up to send money for her child: she becomes a prostitute, she sells her hair, she sells her two front teeth, and just descends terribly until her death (sorry for the spoilers, but there’s a song called “Come to me – Fantine’s Death”, so really this isn’t much of a spoiler). Much of her back story is left out of the musical, such as how Fantine meets the Thénardiers, and the lengths she goes through to be able to provide for Cosette and her death is really watered down. It’s interesting to see Fantine so watered down because in the book she is very raw and very real, where as in the musical she seems so demure and already defeated. I think by the time we are introduced to her she’s been through half the battle and is close to death. It is extremely heartbreaking to see her demise, and the story, albeit watered down, still tugs at the heart-strings.
I am extremely excited to see this movie, and I wonder if the movie will incorporate anything from the novel. Because the musical is almost 3 and a half hours by itself, it will be interesting to see what the differences there will be from the movie musical to the stage musical. I am just upset I have to wait till December 2012, and I heard a rumor that it might be pushed back. It better not get pushed back…I NEED THIS MOVIE.