Tuesday, January 8, 2013

thoughts on les miz...

This past weekend I saw Les Miserables with my friend, Karen (appropriate, seeing it was one of the first things we bonded over when we were 13).  I've been a obsessive nerd fan of the musical since my tween years, so I was iffy about seeing the film.  I am a bit of a purist when it relates to stage to film adaptations - especially this one, considering I spent countless hours in my bedroom pretending I was in rehearsals for the role of Eponine.  I'm glad I decided to see the movie, though.  It's definitely not the same thing as seeing it on stage, but if you need a Les Miz fix (or just a three hour emotional release), the movie is a fine option.  Here are some of my thoughts about the movie, starting with the best.

- The small touches that only work on film :: The intimate setting of the movie allowed for some moments that you just can't accomplish on the stage.  The most poignant of these for me is when Javert, upon seeing little Gavroche among the dead, removes his uniform badge and pins it on the boy's chest.  It smacked of emotion and, in one instant, brought to light Javert's internal struggle with inherent morality vs. civil rights and wrongs.  Also, it was just plain awesome.

-Anne Hathaway :: I've never been her biggest fan, so it means something for me to say that she completely blew me away.  I've always watched the first half of Les Miserables with a sense of impatient anticipation - waiting for the meatier moments of the revolution and the Marius/Cosette/Eponine love story.  This is the first time that I have been breathless during I Dreamed a Dream - her performance was nothing short of magical.

- The realism :: The difference between a stage adaptation and a film is that the former needs to pack a theatrical punch and the latter can be more subtle.  While in the stage production the main focus is on the music, the intimacy of the film means the actors can indulge more in the story, play with vocal power, and mix singing and speaking to greater effect.  I've seen Les Miserables a dozen times and never before have I so deeply felt Jean Valjean's inner conflict as in the transformative What Have I Done sequence at the monastary.  Good on you, Jackman.

- The Thenardiers :: It was the obvious move to cast Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the despicable, over-the-top, comic relief characters that are the Thenardiers.  At this point, Cohen's schtick and Carter's crazy eyes are so expected that the whole thing was just tired.  They're like that friend you have that tells the same funny story to each person they meet - it's funny to the newcomer that hasn't heard it before, but when it's your 20th time over, all you can manage is a weak smile.

- Samantha Barks :: I love Eponine, y'all.  L-O-V-E everything about her.  I related to her ugly duckling, unrequited love story through my formative years.  I mean, that was my LIFE in high school as portrayed by this French 19th century street urchin.  And Samantha Barks was...fine.  She has a nice voice.  That's about all I have to say about that.

- Those infuriating close-ups :: It's really not necessary each time an actor has a solo to zoom in so closely that I can practically see his/her tonsils vibrating like a Looney Tunes character.  The close-ups were fine in small doses, but midway through it started to grate.

- Russell Crowe :: I'm clearly not alone in thinking that Russell Crowe is the weakest link in a mostly superb cast - just read any review of the film.  And despite what you read, it's not that his singing voice is that terrible; it's that Javert should be a powerhouse, and Crowe just can't deliver.  Not only is his vocal prowess remiss, but his portrayal of the stoic man of the law just comes across as devoid of emotional depth.

- Bring Him Home :: I am going to preface this by saying that I like Hugh Jackman and I think he made a good Jean Valjean.  That said, I think his voice has limitations - namely those high notes in Bring Him Home.  It was a huge let-down in an otherwise respectable performance.

Did you see the movie?  What did you think?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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