Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stars In Your Multitudes (Film Review: Les Miserables)

Finally, my Les Miserable review.  If you want the short version, I loved it. 

It has never been my favorite musical. When I first saw it on Broadway with the Original Cast, (with the wondrous cast of Colm Wilkenson, Randi Graff and Judy Kuhn) I thought the show was bloated and just a little too over-the-top, but I have seen it so many times since then, with different iterations (Lea Salonga As Eponine, Ricky Martin as Marius, Debbie Gibson as Eponine, Idina Menzel as Fantine, Lea Salonga as Fantine, just to name some memorable ones) that I have grown to be quite familiar with it. In fact, I am confident enough to say I know most of the lyrics to most of the songs. And of course, some of the "hits" are ubiquitous: I think I have probably hundreds of audio versions of both "I Dreamed A Dream," and "On My Own." 

A lot has been said about Tom Hoppers' decision to film with actors singing live. Yes, it's unusual, and yes the vocals aren't as polished, but with what's lacking, the actors more than make up with emotions. I have noted that while listening to the soundtrack, a lot of the actors sound too "acting," but with the visuals, they all work. Yes, I know a lot of people have complained about Russell Crowe's singing, but I thought he was more than fine. he wasn't off pitch, he followed he melody close enough, and best of all, he gives Javert a screen presence it needed. I was kind of scared that Hugh Jackman would sound nasal, but no, he, too was terrific. And he is fantastic in the role, perfect for it. He gives "Bring It Home" just enough gravitas without overplaying, and on the new song, "Suddenly," he is heartbreaking. I now in my mind cannot envision anyone but him when I think of Jean Valjean. And yes, Anne Hathaway as Fantine is simply that  Academy award-worthy performance. I knew she could sing, I knew she could act, but she does both stunningly. I am officially rooting for her Oscar night. Eddie Redmayne is a revelation: I have always admired him as an actor, and he gives Marius just the right charm, sensitivity, and testosterone. And his "Empty Chairs And Empty Tables" should be more than enough for at the very least a nomination. I know people have complained about Amanda Seyfried's vibrato, but I thought she was touching, and Samantha Banks displays her singing strength (though if I want to be truthful, her screen presence is kind of low batt compared to the other heavy hitters) Aarn Tveit steals scenes he is in, and Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are perfect Thenadiers - much needed comic relief. Quite simply, this movie has stars, and the star power makes the movie, in their multitudes.

So why does the movie polarize so much? Well, you really need to love the show to really love the movie. Hopper knows how to push buttons, and I totally understand why people would say "Enough Already." I can understand how the pacing can madden some, especially the last fifth of the movie. I bet the show will get new young fans (there' already a new Broadway revival slated for 2014) Bottom line, though: if you are not into it, have never been into it, then this movie will not change your mind. As for me, I loved it, and yes I shamelessly cried a couple of times, and I know that the waterworks scenes are so manipulative, and yes they got me again and again and again. I just think, that's why I go to the movies: to have my emotions stirred. Okay, so this movie may not have really challenged my intellect, but you can't have everything. This gave me enough.


  1. Glad you liked it so much. I think Anne Hathaway's performance was the most moving and had me sobbing. (I have a new respect for her now.) Then that was it for me. Aside from Eponine, I had a hard time really caring much for anyone else or their performances. (Making me wonder if we really saw the same movie or if I'm just too overly critical.) It gave a new perspective to the story and I still can't stop singing the songs (and now my husband sings them too). Will I see the movie again? No. Do I still love the musical? YES!

  2. Oh no, I can totally understand how it polarizes people. I think, in the end, it's the material. While on stage the over-the-topness of the piece works, blown up on the big screen it was much too much, For example, I think the scene where Fantine comes back as a ghost should have been cut At that point of the movie, it was just much too much already.

  3. And yes, the score has been on my head, too. I can;t stop singing "stars!"