Friday, January 4, 2013
Movie Review: Les Miserables
If you have read this blog for any amount of time or know me personally, then you probably know that one of the things I love most in this world is Les Miserables. I have seen a live performance at least eight times, probably more and will always jump at the opportunity to see it again. I've owned the original Broadway recording since the age of 16 and watch the 25th Anniversary Concert on Blu-Ray more times than should be admitted. So, when I heard that Hollywood was making a movie of my personal favorite musical, well, I was both thrilled and apprehensive.
I wasn't sure it could be properly done on the big screen and I wanted it to be done right. I've actually said (aloud even) that I would love for someone to actually do the musical as a film since, in my humble opinion, all the other film version pale in comparison to the drama and emotion that is portrayed on the stage. The movie opened on Christmas Day to mixed reviews, although everyone has praised Anne Hathaway's performance as Fantine, and rightly so; but, the soundtrack came out days in advance and I listened to a few sample songs and was not impressed. At the same time, I kept in mind that all the songs were shot live and weren't necessarily mixed with a sound board in a concert hall and so I gave the performers the benefit of the doubt and went to see the movie with a (somewhat) open mind. I went to an early afternoon viewing so in a theater that seats almost 500, there were probably 30 people, which was perfect as I did, in fact, turn into a weeping mess.
The movie was very well done, in fact, much better than I anticipated it being. Anne Hathaway, by far, had the best performance of the film. Her portrayal of Fantine will absolutely rip your heart out, and as is the case when I'm watching on the stage, this was also the point in the movie when I started sobbing like a baby. If she doesn't win and Oscar for this performance, then the Academy should just stop handing them out. Hugh Jackman was an okay Jean Valjean; after seeing the movie, I was actually kind of surprised that he was nominated for a Golden Globe as his voice wasn't as strong as I had hoped it would be. To me, Valjean needs to have a very strong voice and his at times seemed weak. As far as the acting of the character, he did a good job there, but the singing could have been stepped up a notch, especially from someone who has performed on the stage before. Of course, my favorite Valjean has always been and will always be Colm Wilkinson who made a surprise performance as the Bishop of Digne. Perhaps you may have already known he was going to be playing this role (my mother tells me he was on the Ellen show), but I had no idea and when he appeared on screen, I literally gasped with delight. To me, that was one of the best parts.
Another surprise to me was Russell Crowe - who knew the man could sing? I sure didn't. Again, he wasn't as booming of a Javert as I would have preferred, but he did a decent job, in fact, a much better job than I would have thought possible. Amanda Seyfried was really fantastic as Cosette. I wasn't sure she would be able to pull it off either, but again, I was quite surprised and thought she did an excellent job. Samantha Barks played Eponine, one of my favorite characters, and was brilliant, as I expected her to be. Barks also sang the role at the 25th Anniversary Concert and performed the role at London's West End so I had no doubt she would be every bit as wonderful as I wanted her to be. Eddie Redmayne did a nice job as Marius and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, were hilarious as the Thenardiers. Another of my favorites was Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. I think he was probably the best Gavroche I have ever heard - I loved him and his performance. The rest of the cast did a great job as well. Overall, a really great chorus and supporting characters.
The movie was also visually appealing and really brought the story to life. For people who may have a hard time visualizing stories from the stage, seeing this version of Les Miserables would be beneficial. I would say, it's a must, but not everyone loves music, or stories about love, revenge, forgiveness, or the French Revolution for that matter. I will say, that to me the movie seemed a bit long, even though it's really no longer that the stage performance. I suppose the only difference is I'm used to an intermission and an opportunity to stop by the restroom and I didn't have that and really needed it (just being honest here). All in all, it was a spectacular rendition of the musical and very well done; however if given the choice between the film and the stage version, I would still choose the stage.