Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Les Mis Review by someone who knows nothing about singing.

Alright, guys. I'm going to give you a little introduction to how I fell in love with Les Miserables. In high school, my friends and I rented the awful version with Uma Thurman and Liam Neeson. I hated it. Looking back now, I know why. But I just thought it was awful. Then, my senior class took a trip to London for our spring break. A trip to the West End to see the musical was the first thing on our itinerary, and I was dreading it. I love musicals, but I just couldn't tolerate sitting through the story I thought I hated again.

And how wrong I was. I wish I were as huge into theatre as I am now and could tell you which actors and actresses graced the stage that night, but I can tell you my life was changed. I had never been exposed to such a powerful story about redemption and forgiveness, as well as the beautiful music. Since 2008 I have ached to see it again, but could never afford tickets. I satisfied myself with listening to the cast recordings and watching the 25th concert on PBS. And reading the book, which was a feat, but I did it.

So when I heard it was going to be a movie... I wasn't sure what to think. I was excited about the story being translated to the screen, but taking a stage musical and putting it on film is a risky thing to do. And like many others, I just felt like this musical was mine. What if they butchered it? What if they chose awful actors?

Well, I saw it Christmas night. And this is what I thought.


I will say after listening to the 10th anniversary recording (my favorite), it was difficult to get used to Hugh Jackman. His style is different from any Valjean I've ever heard, but once I got used to it it was beautiful. "Who Am I" is my favorite Valjean song, and when he marched up in the court singing, "24601!" it took everything in me not to throw my fist in the air. I thought he was spectacular.

Anne Hathaway is not an actress that I admire.I hate the roles she picks, I hate her speaking voice (it just grates on my nerves), and I stay away from movies that she is in. To be honest, I was excited that if she had to be in this movie at all, she was Fantine, and died relatively early on so I wouldn't have to put up with her. But she did a beautiful job. My gut literally hurt when she sang "I Dreamed A Dream." Is she Lea Solonga? No. But if I'm honest... I might be going to Anne's recording from now on. Should I be murdered? I hope not.

I was very skeptical, but excited, to see Bonham-Carter and Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers. The production company seemed to be keeping them secret from us - whether it was because they were terrible or wonderful - but I loved their performances. I thought they took "Master of the House" a bit too far, but I laughed all of the same. I hated them and loved them all at once, which is what I think anyone playing the Thénardiers should strive for.

I have to give the child actors serious credit. Gavroche has always been one of my three favorite characters (along with Eponine and Enjolras). Daniel Huttlestone was fabulous. "Little People" is one of my favorite songs, and he did a great job. And all of the most heart-wrenching moments in the film involved little Gavroche. Oh, I just loved him. And Isabelle Allen did a great job with her few moments of spotlight.

I had never heard of Aaron Tveit before. I had listened to the Next to Normal recording a few times, but never really paid attention to the singers. And I don't watch Gossip Girl... His performance as Enjolras was my favorite of the entire film. I would follow him into a revolution. First of all, holy wow, he's attractive. Secondly, he held my attention the whole time because he sang and acted (at the same time!) with such believability that I was awestruck. He has the number one spot for favorite actor now. His death hurt me most of all after Gavroche's. I love his character, and I loved Aaron's version.

The highlights for me were "One Day More" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Absolutely incredible. And the finale.

I was not blown away by Amanda Seyfreid as Cossette, but I didn't hate her either. She is my very least favorite character anyway, so I didn't care too much one way or the other.

Samantha Barks was fabulous. Like I said, Eponine is another favorite character, and I really enjoyed her performances. I did find myself wondering where her waist was for half of the movie, but I loved her. Eponine breaks my heart everytime she opens her mouth, and Sam did just that.

I know a lot of people did not like the close-ups during singing, but I appreciated them. When you watch the stage version, you don't get to see the actor's face. You take in everything at once. I appreciated the intimate face-to-face time we got while we watched it.

Now, was this movie perfect? No. And my main reason is the same as others. Russel Crowe. I don't really need to say much because so many others have said it. I know nothing about singing, but I know there are hundreds of actors better suited to be Javert. His songs were hard to sit through, and it felt like he was just Russel Crowe dressed up in a uniform with little acting involved. Not enjoyable. Not anywhere near the conflicted Javert we are supposed to see.

My other main issue were lines that were cut from the songs. I understood why some lines from "Drink With Me" were removed. It's a slow song in the middle of a ton of action and it's hard to switch back and forth. The main line I was upset about was during "A Little Fall of Rain." When Eponine sings "I'll sleep in your embrace at last..." I always lose it. I was waiting with Kleenex on hand as she died... and it wasn't there. What. The. Dump. That is the best line of the song! I was so distraught. Several other songs/lines from songs were missing as well, and it kind of felt like a punch in the gut.

I also wish Eponine was featured like she is supposed to be during the epilogue, but whatever. I didn't even notice it the first time I saw it. 

I know not everyone agrees with me. I know a lot of theatre/musical theatre people might be mad at me for loving it as much as I do. But I did, and I'm not ashamed to say that. I went in knowing the story and music, and I still cried and ripped through about 6 tissues. Bravo, Tom Hooper. I will be buying this and enjoying it for many, many years to come.

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