(Also posted on my Tumblr…)
Even though I am a musical theater-addicted person, I had never seen a musical version of Les Miserables before today. I saw the 1998 movie (non-musical movie) with Liam Neeson, but I never saw this show on stage or on DVD or anything.
That being said, when I snuggled down in my movie theater seat today, I didn’t have any expectations – which was for the best, I think. I’m a huge fan of the director (Tom Hooper), but I either loved or hated what he did with the staging and shooting of the songs. A lot of the solos were just close ups of faces, and that didn’t work when it was Crowe singing.
On paper, Crowe was the perfect choice for Javert (Gladiator/Bud White vs Wolverine), but that did not translate well to the screen. At all. The Confrontation was the only time I felt Crowe was in it for real and was believable as that character. He looked fairly uncomfortable while in the scenes where he was singing by himself. And, although this probably seems rude, I laughed out loud at his jump scene (and was not the only one to do so). It was awkward to watch, and the subsequent splat sound that played upon his collision with the fountain thing below was just awful. I burst into a fit of giggles (it’s my coping mechanism when I’m feeling secondhand embarrassed while watching movies or plays), and had to smother the sounds that were threatening to escape my mouth.
I thought Jackman and Hathaway were the strongest performers in the cast. I am familiar with both of them, musically, before this movie and felt that out of all of the leading dramatic characters, they had the best grasp on how to sing their dialogue and songs in a way that would transfer to screen. That being said, they were framed awkwardly during some of their songs. Props to Anne Hathaway for singing “I Dreamed a Dream” in what seemed like a one-shot. There didn’t appear to be any edits and she literally just sat in one spot and emoted. Even though I belt this song like it’s my job when I’m listening to it, her restrained performance was powerful and grounded in reality. A dying woman would not belt; she would cry and whisper and go through a gamut of emotions… which Hathaway did very well. She and Jackman will both get nominated for Academy Awards. Hathaway has a very good chance at walking away with the Best Supporting Actress statue. And you know what? I would be perfectly content with that.
The plot is my biggest problem – Valjean stole bread, went to jail for a long time, and then had a life-long rivalry w/Javert? Surely there were more important things for those men to focus on over the years (*cough* revolution). And then the whole Cosette-Marius-Eponine triangle? He only just saw Cosette that day before the big fight and fell in love? Come on.
Also – I really wanted to know more about Marius and Enjolras. What was their backstory? I mean, they were obviously friends and comrades, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to care about them and their relationship. I wanted to know why they were fighting and what they were fighting for. I wanted to care if they lived or died. Marius was going into battle well before Cosette ever came into his life… so why did one minute with her seemingly change his entire purpose for fighting? Why was Enjolras the leader of the revolutionaries? (Or at least of the young men who were fighting at the barricades?) (I think I just wanted to know more about Enjolras in general because Aaron Tveit is a magnetic performer and I just wanted to see him onscreen as much as humanly possible.)
Side note – I LOVED that little kid who played Gavroche. Even though you didn’t really know who he was or what his deal was, but you totally cared about him. And when he started collecting supplies, you just knew what was going to happen. I’m glad they left his eyes open the whole time; for he was one of the only characters who really saw everything and everyone for what and who they were.
Was anyone else as annoyed with the Thenardiers as I was? I get that you need to have some sort of comedy in a drama (you can’t depress the audience the whole time…), but I can only handle so much schtick before I want to gouge my eyes out. That being said, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were well cast as the Thenardiers… I just could have done with a bit less of them.
Even though I didnt like a lot of the framing choices made and was disappointed by the ridiculousness and sometimes lack of plot, the movie looked gorgeous. The costumes, sets and cinematography were great. I also really liked that they recorded the singing live; it gave the performances an intimate and immediate feeling. Though, that also added extra awkwardness whenever Crowe was on screen. At some points, I had to look away because I was uncomfortable watching him. That made me sad because I normally really love Russell Crowe. I think he is a brilliant actor and is often a strong presence on screen. This film just did not do his talent much justice.
I was familiar with some of the music before I saw the movie. I thought Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was understated and, as a result, powerful. I’ve read complaints about Amanda Seyfried, but I thought her voice complemented those she sang with.
I loved, loved, loved the Finale, especially the very end of it. I do enjoy a good reprise, and I was not disappointed with the repeated use of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” with the whole cast (well, those who didn’t make it…) and all the flags. That was a very powerful visual and was the epitome of what I thought the film was trying to accomplish. These were the characters who were fighting a losing battle the whole film – Les Miserables, if you will. These were the characters who represented good and evil. And though they were mostly good, that wasn’t enough to keep them safe. Someone had to pay.
(Even though this film is set in France, it was disturbingly patriotic and totally applicable to the USA’s middle and lower classes. Right?)
On a whole I was impressed they made the movie how they made it, but I didn’t think it was the bees knees. The weird shot and editing choices, Crowe’s awkward performance, and the overall ridiculousness of the plot/lack of exposition marred what could have been something amazing.
I liked it, but I didn’t love it.