It’s been the source of constant jokes and even a few cruel comments but does Russell Crowe deserve the flack he received for his performance as Javert in Les Miserables? Read two opinions by members of the Stage Door Dish team then weigh in with your own thoughts!
I enjoyed Russell Crowe’s performance as Javert.
This one sentence is among the most unpopular opinions in the theatre community, and especially within the Les Miserables fandom, but I honestly don’t understand why people are so harsh about Russell’s performance. What’s even more baffling are the claims that Russell can’t act. With an Academy Award, two other nominations, a Golden Globe and countless other awards, it’s evident that Russell is a wonderful performer.
Few remember the band but Russell is also a singer. Oh yes. He had a rock band called “Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts” from 1992 to 2005 and is currently performing with “The Ordinary Fear of God.” Though I question the band names, I do not question Russell’s ability to perform a rock ballad. If you listen to “Stars” on the Les Miserables album, which is one of the tracks I have on repeat most often, I would be genuinely surprised if someone argued Russell cannot carry a tune.
With his individual talent, both as an actor and a performer, the question now becomes why did Russell appear weak in the film beside the likes of Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Samantha Barks and the others? It’s because compared to many actors who have spent years involved with Les Miserables, operatic singing and the stage, Russell was doing this for the very first time.
He was vulnerable and learning the process while others, like Samantha Barks and Tony Award-winning actor Hugh Jackman, comfortably transitioned into their roles. His monologues, in particular his performance of “Stars” and the moment he places his Napoleonic medal on Gavorche’s chest stand out as shining moments in Russell’s performance. And it’s an example of how he carried his solo scenes well but failed to live up to the experience and mastery of those he performed with.
However, to discredit his entire performance, or even worse to completely make a mockery of it, is equally frustrating and confusing to me because Russell delivered a very solid performance and while he was not the breakout star of the film by any means, to say he can’t act and can’t sing is absurd.
Russell Crowe’s performance as Javert was fine. Nothing more, nothing less. It lacked the intensity and any outward manifestation of the interior struggle he experiences as the plot moves forward. I went into the movie giving him the benefit of the doubt because Javert can be played as a badass, and Russell Crowe certainly has a string of badass characters under his belt. But I was truly underwhelmed.
A coworker of mine said “but he’s supposed to be indifferent!” I have to respectfully disagree. He might be indifferent to the plight of Valjean. He might be indifferent to the plight of Fantine and the rest of the poor, disgruntled people of Paris. But he is not indifferent to the law. The law is his passion. Javert’s character introduces a moral question that still has audiences pondering the answer to. Javert opts to end his life because he cannot justify how a man can break the law and still be a good person, deserving of fair treatment and a righteous end. That is certainly not indifferent.
His performance seemed stunted and somewhat guarded until his penultimate scene during “Turning” in which he sees all the deceased boys of the barricade lined up together on the floor of the Café Musain. The moment he decides to give Gavroche his Napoleonic medal does stand out as one of the more touching parts of the movie, and a treat to audiences as an artistic break from the musical.
Unfortunately, any growing mental duress you might glimpse during that scene seems to vanish as “Javert’s Suicide” begins. The song is sung with the same energy and sense of urgency as we see in the rest of the movie, which seems inappropriate. He is about to commit suicide. It says so right in the title of the song. This is the point where I wish he had simply stopped singing and performed a dramatic reading of the lyrics instead.
Crowe is a wonderful actor, but I think his talents were not utilized correctly in this particular film.