Les Misérables

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It makes sense that Hooper and his casting director would think of Sasha Baron Cohen for Thénardier, after his strong performance in a similar role (complete with stagey accent, musical number, and villainous two-facedness) in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. But he’s just awful here, selfishly hammy to an overwhelming degree. And Helena Bonham Carter is playing the same part she’s played in every film since she became a Burton featured player. Their numbers are painful. That aside, one of Hooper’s most questionable choices here in terms of servicing the original material is to turn the Thénardiers’ final song, the triumphant “Beggars At The Feast,” into an ironic cry of triumph from a couple of losers who don’t realize they’ve lost. Having them squall out the song while being bodily ejected from Cosette and Marius’ wedding completely undermines the point of the song and of their characters—that they’re the cockroaches who take advantage of everyone else’s moral stances and profit from having no beliefs of their own. It’s a cynical message, but it’s still more of a message than the film’s oddball version of a happy ending, which sorta-punishes them while not letting them learn anything. It’s trying to have it both ways, with a cathartic/comic moment that isn’t either.

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