Friday, December 28, 2012

Dare I Voice Thoughts About Les Mis?

Do I dare? You bet!

If you haven't seen Les Miserables, you don't have to read this. You could go watch the trailer instead. Don't ever say I didn't give you options.

I'd like to break this down by character and comment on both the person development and the musical ability in one fell swoop. If you don't like the way I do it, then do it yourself...unless you haven't seen the movie, because that would just be futile. So in that case, you can read someone else's opinion. Options.

Jean Valjean: Hugh Jackman did a GREAT job. I think the adjusted lyrics and the added songs really helped portray the depth of his transformation, his fear of Javert, and his love for Cosette. His singing was good...not as good as a theater performance, but for an actor who sings, very satisfying.
The final scene when he dies {oops, spoiler alert!} was beautiful. Perfection.

Javert: Ugh. First of all, I am a Russell Crowe fan. Most of the time. But not here. He seemed really stiff, which I guess is a part of Javert's character, but he just fell short of showing any depth. It seemed that Crowe had recently had Botox and could not move his face. Also, the singing was so disappointing. Javert usually has the best voice of the entire cast, but Crowe's was weak. His two solos were very weak and airy, instead of deep, strong, and intense. In terms of character, there were two distinct moments where I thought the moviemakers did it wrong. First, after the barricade has fallen and the bodies are lying out, Javert bends down and puts his badge on Gavroche. Totally out of character! Javert loves the law; there is no mercy or sympathy in the law. Bad form. Secondly, when Javert catches Valjean exiting the sewer with Marius and Javert threatens to shoot and then doesn't, that scene is weak and doesn't fully portray what's happening in either character.

Fantine: Hello. If you haven't heard yet, Anne Hathaway stole the show. Wow. Amazing. Everything about her performance was incredible. I love that what we watched and what we heard so complemented and completed each other. We see her being thrown out onto the streets, we see her sell herself in order to aid her child, and we hear her regret and still her love for her child. Wow. It was all incredible.

The Thenardiers: The fact that these two made me uncomfortable whenever they were on screen tells me that they did a marvelous job. The Master of the House song made me cringe several times, and I must commend the cinematography for adding things that are simply impossible to add in an on-stage performance. Well done. Singing was great, characters were great, make-up and costumes were perfect, and the details were right.

Cosette: Cosette didn't have as much screen-time as I thought she would have, but it was alright. We didn't see her too much or too little. I think her character development assumed just a little that you were familiar with the story, but I liked how she kept asking Valjean about his past because she had never been told. Her voice was very warbley {nice word, eh?} but since it was consistently warbley, I'm going to give the film makers the benefit of the doubt that they wanted it that way.

Marius: Let's go visual then audio. DANG. Attractive. British. Moving on.
Singing was iffy until his solo after the barricades. That sealed the deal for me; well done! In earlier songs, I was disappointed that Marius sang and would usually end with a high note, or he would sing in a higher octave than the theater actors. But Empty Chairs at Empty Tables completely transformed the way I thought of his singing, because he got that song right. I really liked the scene between Marius and Valjean when the latter tells the former of his criminal past and then leaves to protect Cosette. That scene was well done; Marius matured in that scene.

Eponine: My favorite character. The actress is the same Eponine on stage, so the singing was of course fabulous. I thought they did a great job showing her infatuation with Marius and how she loved him and he took it as friendship or teasing. During Eponine's solo On My Own, I thought the music overtook her voice, which was not necessary for her. It helped Javert's solos, but the music should enhance, not overwhelm Eponine's voice. However, the scenery was great during that song, and other times it was nice to have a movie set instead of the limited theater set.

Other items: This film encompassed many more details than either film or theater productions have done in the past, and as someone who has read the unabridged book, I really appreciated those!
The sets were incredible. There is so much more you can do with a movie set, and they went all out, but they still managed to keep the feel of theater. I don't know if that's cinematography or the sets themselves, but I loved it.
Costumes were gorgeous. Make-up was fabulous.
The minor characters were all perfect. The priest who initiated the change in Valjean was wonderful in both voice and character. The revolutionary boys were perfect; they acted and sang beautifully. The women in the factory with Fantine allowed more depth into the scene, which was fantastic. The common people who sang At the End of the Day really portrayed to a new level what they were living in, in such a way that can only be done in the movies.

This is a stand-alone comment: it was interesting how during several of the solos, the camera would stay on the character's face for almost the duration of the song, sometimes with only short breaks or different angles. At first I thought it was for intensity, which is definitely true in I Dreamed a Dream, but then I thought it might be for a more theater-like experience; when the camera is continuously on the singer, there is more of a stage feel to it than a movie feel, simply because your focus is the character and the song and little else. If that's what the director was going for, cool. If not, well that's what happened, so yeah.

Alright, I'm done geeking out. I don't consider myself to be either a movie buff or a theater buff, but I do consider myself a Les Miserables fan{atic?} and I had to process these thoughts somehow. And I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you agree with me or not? What would you change if you were making the film? Do you like the stage or the film version{s} better {and what have you seen before this?}?

Happy Friday!


  1. I've never read the book. Didn't know the story. But I watched the movie. And I agree with you on pretty much everything. However (maybe it's just me and my fam - cause we all agreed on this), there was some unnecessary vulgar content that really made me feel uncomfortable, particularly in the scene where they're introducing the inn.

    1. Oh yes, the inn was very crass, which was sadly true to the characters. The plays are usually not so bad, simply because of the limits of theater. But yes, didn't some parts make you squirm???

  2. Yes. It would be fun to see the play sometime. I'm sure the 5th avenue theater does it?

    1. Yes, they did it summer 2011... several years ago was supposed to be their last time, but then they ended up doing like an anniversary tour :)