There have been so many reviews of Les Miserables that we totally don't need another one.
Yet...here I am...and I'm gonna yap about it. Why? Oh, cause I want to. My blog. My rules. =)
I'm not even going to yap about sets, costumes, make-up, or anything technical...cause, let's face it, it's beautiful and well done and etc etc etc...I want to talk about other things....the singing, acting, the effect of singing live, etc.
So...for an ex-pro-performer, singer, director, producer, who hold a degree in performance/directing/education.....what did I think of this movie?
I BLOODY LOVED IT!
The question now is WHY...right?
I would guess it is because I'm a HUGE fan of casting actors who can sing vs. singers who can kinda act. Nothing bores me to tears more than an emotional show with actors that sing like a dream but could be reciting the telephone book for all the emotion they show us.
Before we continue I'll cop to some of the negative things out there and comment on them. Here's a hint to my biggest disappointment...
That said...here are the FIVE things that are being said...here they are, with my thoughts...
1. Yes, Jackman sounds a bit nasal from time to time.
Comment: It's not all the time and he's always in key and hits all the great notes with such fervor, who the hell cares if he's nasal from time to time? I know I didn't. You'll get past it. It fits the character, actually.
2. Yes, Seyfried's voice is a bit trilly (yeah, I made up that word, deal with it)
Comment: Funny thing is, the segment in the preview has her trilly and then in the movie, that section wasn't. Plus, she hits all the big, long, high notes w/o the trilly vibrato, and emotionally she gives us something in Cozette we don't get in the play. So I forgive her "trilly" soprano sound. You will too.
3. Yes, the singing is affected by crying, snot, emotion, and so on as it is sung live.
Comment: It's a sad f*cking story. They cry. If they didn't it would be bad acting. If their voices weren't affected by the crying it wouldn't be realistic...so deal with it. You want singing to be perfect with less acting, go see Phantom.
4. Yes, Crowe sorta sucked.
Comment: *sigh* He's such a passionate actor...I just don't understand why his version of Javert has no "fire" to him. None. Nada. He's mush-mouthed and the passion of Javert is just there, under the surface...but it never touches his eyes. So sad...especially when he's an actor that CAN be on fire. I was very disappointed with him. BUT...that could have been a director's choice. We must keep that in mind. So forgive and just enjoy everyone else. That's my motto.
5. Yes, the director's choices weren't always...shall we say...optimum.
Comment: All these amazing sets and he barely uses the crane for us to see it. The shots are UBER close up all the time. Mind you, that could just be the trend these days...have you seen the latest Twilight flick? I went and it felt like I was sitting on their laps most of the time.
Ok, those are out in the open and done. Let's talk about WHY this thing rocked!
It comes down to one thing for me...it was as real as it can be on screen. This is a piece of literature and theater that needs to be lived in. Three comments in an interview hit me the hardest:
1) Hugh Jackman: "Les Miserables...it has to feel real. It has to feel immediate."
2) Eddie Redmayne: "You get the fragility of the voice which matches the emotions of what the character is saying."
3) Anne Hathaway: "There seemed to be something...selfish about going for the pretty version. She's (Fantine) devistated....so I decided to just apply the truth to the melody and see what would happen."
One of the biggest beefs I hear about (other than the fact that, "Yee gads, they sing the whole damn thing!") is that the singing isn't perfect. That's true. If you are someone who feels these songs should sound perfect...songs sung so perfect they sound like your soundtrack...this is not the movie for you. Go see Phantom of the Opera and revel in your perfect opera or listen to soundtracks and please, don't go see live theatre. Now, if you want characters whose singing is as emotionally powerful as the words, then you will "get" this piece of art.
For it is art. It holds the pain, love, beauty, and the ugliness of life. It evokes emotion like a painting or a dance...that's how majestic the realness of the singing is to me because the characters are real, they're "lived in," and they're fragile. But then again, I absolutely despise recorded tracks to sound "pretty" for the sake of "pretty"...and though it works for some musicals on film...I believe it would not have worked for this in the same way. The gritty feel of this is what takes you on the journey, evokes the tears, grabs your soul and drags it through the mud with them. Yet, you come out of it lighter than you went in...you come out of the theater feeling empowered in a way only this musical can do. If you don't want to stand and sing the last song of the film (please don't, though) then I'd be surprised.
FACT: If you are not a fan of musicals...as in, you hate all of them. Yeah, don't go. You'll hate it. Almost every word is sung. The "plot" is sorta week (he stole a loaf of bread and Javert is determined he be treated as a rapist.......two people see each other across the street and "fall in love"........a girl on the street can find a convict in hiding but a seasoned officer of the law can't......etc etc etc....) but the emotional journey is worth the $15 ticket.
In closing I want to mention two more things the movie gave me that the play did not. I've already mentioned how I felt a real connection to Fantine I didn't before. The first this was the character of Enjolras (the leader of the revolution), played by Aaron Tveit (he will knock your socks off with the power he exudes as well as his voice) is absolutely amazing...at first I wondered why he wasn't Marius, he was so powerful. Then I remembered...Marius has to be softer. He has to love. He has to care more about life than "the cause" or the story doesn't work.
Secondly, the relationship between Marius and Cozette. It's so farfetched we never really care...but we get a bit more of it in the film...we see faces, we see the connection between them...and though "love at first sight without talking" is utter bullshit to us all, we find we can accept it, but watching the performances of Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried. In fact, two of the most heart wrenching moments for me in the movie version is the end of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables (sung by Redmayne) and the reaction on Seyfriend's face when Jean ValJean dies.
What a wonderful emotional journey this piece of art is. Do see it. And cry if you want to cry. Everyone else is. Me personally? I can't wait to own a copy of this on Blue Ray so I can weep loud and proud at home when I watch it. Ya can't do that in the theater without disrupting the experience of others...but at home...only the dog will look at me crazy...and that's okay by me.
And btw...there's a new original song shoved in there. If you are a Les Miz Head...you'll notice cause you won't know the words. But honestly, you may miss it. It fits in that well.
5 out of 5 stars....even with Crowe ruining his two big songs...
P.S. I add this as a side not because they ARE a side note in the story...but Carter and Cohen as the Thenardier's (Eponine's parents) are hilarious and the comedy bits that the story needs. Some say it was misplaced in a sad story....I say it's needed in the story to keep it from being TOO heavy. My question is, is this really acting for the two of them? ;) LOL!