Who caught the Golden Globes last night? I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for the hoopla that is a Hollywood award ceremony. The dresses, the hype, the dresses, the trophies, the dresses, the speeches, did I already say dresses? It’s just such a spectacle!
While I had a good time oohing and ahhing and OMG what the heck is she wearing??! I was mostly excited to see some awards go to Les Miserables.
Guys, today I’m going to talk a bit about Les Miserables. You see, it is very near and dear to my heart. So much so, that I have named my first child Cosette. Yah, you could say I’m a fan.
I read the abridged version in high school. I walked into that book completely unprepared for the heart-wrenching and awe-inspiring effect it would have on me. Fantine, in particular, was devastating.
Is there a more tragic literary figure than Fantine? I don’t know. She’s completely screwed over by her lover, cheated out of a job, swindled by those who care for her child, and manipulated into prostitution. She makes Romeo and Juliet look like a walk in a pink park.
Fantine suffers so greatly because she has more at stake than just herself; she is a mother. It’s because she loves Cosette so much and will do anything, ANYTHING to keep her child thriving that Fantine is subjected to such humiliating ends.
I wasn’t a mother when I read Les Miserables for the first time, but I think a little piece of me identified and clung to that tragic maternal devotion.
Obviously, I was both thrilled and mortified to discover that Hollywood was once again tackling this most favorite of stories. I was excited to see it portrayed, but scared that they would screw it up. The big name celebrities especially freaked me out.
And like most people, I really questioned Anne Hathaway’s credentials to play Fantine.
This is the girl who got her start in Princess Diaries 1 and 2. The girl who rehashed Cinderella in Ella Enchanted, and then basically re-polished Princess Diaries to make The Devil Wears Prada.
I’m sorry, but Fantine is not Cinderella. Not even close.
So I got a little huffy and irritated and said things like, “What’s SHE doing in that role?”
And then I found out her mom had actually played Fantine when Anne was a little girl. In an interview, Anne remarked that as she watched her mother portray Fantine she sat in the audience and just weeped.
Strange enough, after watching that interview I knew that she, too, had connected with it. So, with great anticipation, I looked forward to finally getting to see my favorite story come to life on screen.
Finally, people would get why we named our daughter Cosette.
I cried throughout most of the film. I know it was a solid musical, and that bothered some people. To be honest, I had a moment of, “Oh crap, are they really going to sing through the whole thing?!” But I got over it.
And Fantine, singing “I Dreamed A Dream” just about knocked the hairs off my legs.
Princess Diaries or no, Anne Hathaway didn’t just portray Fantine. She WAS Fantine.
I can only describe it as excruciating to watch her sing that most famous of songs. We’re all romanticized by it. It’s packed with the word “dream” and has all the right crescendos. Covered by hundreds of artists, it is the ultimate song for theatrical force and persuasion. Heck, I cried with all the rest of them when little, old Susan Boyle got up there, shook her hiney, and then proceeded to shake the walls with her miraculous rendition. It was beautiful–it was triumphant.
When Anne Hathaway begins her song with the wasted energy of one who has just been raped–all triumph and splendor evaporate from the notes. Instead, we hear a woman whose life has crumbled to bits. We see someone, a mother, who hates this world but cannot leave it because she has a child. She wants to give up, she should give up, but she cannot because of her daughter.
What mom can stand by and not fall apart?
Last night, Anne Hathaway won the award for Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables, and I could not have been more happy for her. It was really the only part of the ceremony that I cared about. And even if you’re not a huge Anne Hathaway fan, I think her acceptance speech showed grace and appreciation for the role she was given. She made a direct address to Sally Field whom she said is a “vanguard against typecasting.”
“Because as the girl who started out as the princess of Genovea, Sally, I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to know that the Flying Nun grew up to be Norma Ray, and grew up to be Mama Gump, and grew up to be Mary Todd Lincoln. Thank you.”
Well done, Anne. And thank you for delivering the raw, excruciating performance that brings Victor Hugo’s masterpiece back into the forefront of our culture.
Oh, and for all of you who are now going to name your child Cosette…I did it first.
Have you seen Les Miserables yet? What did you think of Anne Hathaway’s performance?
I love the analogy you make about the mother/daughter relationship in Les MIs to all mothers/children – how true is that? And I did not see Anne’s acceptance speech – but I love the quote you pulled from it She’s a class act.
I haven’t seen the film yet, and missed the Golden Globes for the first time in years…
But as an ex-drama geek, I knew from the start that Anne would take the industry by storm… and the nod to Sally – so true.
She really is fantastic! I cannot wait to see what she does next!
haha you did it first! Love it! I haven’t seen it yet, I wasn’t sure I wanted to because of it being a musical and I have never read the book so I wasn’t sure if it would hit me like everyone is saying. But I am determined to see it now! Do you think I should read the book first?
The book is quite a huge one to try and read before the movie. You could pick up an abridged version I guess. There’s also another film version with Liam Neeson and Clare Danes that isn’t a musical. It explains the story fairly well.
I just stumbled across your blog through a friend’s re-post of your mommy-daughter dates (loved that by the way as I’m a new mom of a 4-month old and can’t wait to bond with her as she grows up) and I clicked on this specific blog because I couldn’t agree more about Anne Hathaway’s performance! After watching her sing “I Dreamed a Dream” I felt that I could leave and be satisfied with only having seen that much of the movie. Heck, I would have paid the ticket price just to see that scene! It was absolutely phenomenal. I was balling my eyes out at the end. I think being a new mom only added to my emotionalness. So glad she won a Golden Globe for it and I really hope she wins an Oscar as well… P.S.- I love that you named your daughter Cosette; such a pretty name ????
I know. I would pay a ticket price just to watch that scene again. It was so amazing. I can’t wait to see what Hathaway does next!
I am so glad I read this post! I haven’t seen the movie yet (nor have I ever read the book- shame!), but really, really want to see it this weekend. I had no clue it was all a musical. I love that Anne’s mother played that part when she was young. How touching! What I love the most? Your daughter’s name. Beautiful!
???? loved it!
I was surprised and impressed with the film, cried when Fantine sang her sad, raped, broken heart out.
Yes, surprised and impressed. Pleasantly surprised and impressed ????
[…] year, I’m living vicariously through Anne Hathaway. Because of what she did in Les Miserables, I’ve got her back. And since we both have daughters name Cosette we have a bond. Never mind […]
I’m totally with you. I didn’t have any hair on my legs or tears left in my eyes by the end. Amazing.
I am happy she won too. I really liked the part of her speech you quoted. I’m not sure if I will see the movie though because I’m so into the musicals/movies that are more upbeat and happy.
Yah, this one is not necessarily upbeat or happy.
Ohmygoodness YES! I was absolutely bawling in the theater. She did such a fantastic job. Freaking amazing.
I’m excited to see what she’ll do next.
Les Mis is close to my heart, too. I have not seen the latest film – but I am really looking forward to it. I am happy about the musical version; I have loved the soundtrack for years. After reading your impressions in your post, I am more impatient than ever!
The music is so beautiful. Besides Fantine, I loved the voices behind Marius and Eponine. So good!
What a great post, Hill! You’ve made me want to see Les Mis immediately. I know I’ll be hysterical crying the entire time. And Anne rocks doesn’t she. I wish so many more were like her — deep in substance, talented and so smart.
I didn’t watch (huge Downton Abbey fan) but I was happy to hear Hathaway won. I saw a clip of her singing I Dreamed a Dream, and I’ve been pretty happy to see how well represented Les Mis is in the awards ceremonies this year as well. I read it in college, and it was one of those books that keep you awake thinking for two nights after you finish it, for me. I haven’t had the chance to see it yet– next weekend!
I need to catch up on Downton now! Yes, it is certainly a book that leaves you thinking. There are so many amazing quotes to take away from it. Let me know what you think about it after you go!