Tonight, I went with a friend to see Les Miserables. I hadn't gotten a chance to see it when it first came out, and had resolved to just purchase the DVD when it comes out in a few weeks. My friend insisted I see it on the big screen, and I'm glad she did. It was totally worth it.
Let me first say, tonight I realized how very lucky I am to have known this story via musical for 26 years. I remember watching the 1987 Tony Awards. I went to our record store in our local mall to pick up the cassette of the cast recording. I got to travel to Denver to see one of the first tours. I picked up the complete cast recording when it came out. I had a VHS documentary about the production. I've watched the concert version and the 25th anniversary. So on the occasion of his birthday, I would like to thank Mr. Hugo for an amazing story that has touched many hearts. And to the creators of the musical, I applaud you. Thank you for tender strains of music and beautiful lyrics.
All that to say, I'd like to give my thoughts on the movie. Perhaps touching a bit on each actor would be the best way to do it. As I watched, I made mental notes...so I will try to keep those in mind, too.
Hugh Jackman got me right away. While I didn't like the camera-in-the-face close-ups (way too many for my taste), I loved the emotion he showed after the bishop saves him from the authorities. It was a powerful and beautiful reaction to redemption, and I think it demonstrates why Valjean chose to change his life for the better. I did miss the lovely falsetto that most actors who play Valjean flip into during "Bring Him Home." I felt like Jackman was straining to reach those notes in his chest voice. If you've not heard it, check out Alfie Boe singing that song. Fabulous!
Russell Crowe - I was disappointed. I had decided not to make a judgment based solely on the song Stars. I wanted to see how he handed Javert's suicide. I thought he was deadpan in his acting. His singing fell flat (not in pitch, but in emotion). Javert is such a complex character, and I think he'd best served with an underlying anger. Sadly, that did not come across in anyway. There was one moment that is not found in the stage version that I found to be quite powerful. Javert pins his medal on young Gavroche's dead body. That moment alone said so much.
Another credit to Hugo - he created a villain of circumstance in Javert. There is nothing bad about Javert. Valjean sings it a couple of times - he's done nothing more than his duty. And yet, you fear him like a villain. You loathe him as a bad guy. He would be an intense character study.
And another note about the characters: I find it interesting that Valjean and Javert were both presented with similar situations and chose very different paths. Valjean pursued a better life, while Javert chose to end his. Brilliant, Mr. Hugo. Absolutely brilliant.
Anne Hathaway surprised me. I wasn't expecting to like her, but her "I Dreamed a Dream" blew me away. I loved the emotion that fueled that song. In the stage version, of course, you don't see a person's face, unless you're in the front row. Emotion is conveyed in body language. With the cinematic choice of a facial close-up (again, way too many, but I can deal with it), the song was riveting. I now understand why she won the Oscar.
Amanda Seyfried bothered me. I can't see past her performance in Mean Girls. But when I mentally try to put that aside, I thought her voice was thin and weak. Reminded me of Disney's Snow White. She didn't hang onto the notes. Yes, she was lovely. Yes, she acted the character fairly well, but blah on her voice.
I am not a Sasha Baron Cohen fan, and I was leery of his Thenardier...but he did a bang-up job! He provided the humor and the smarminess required of the character. I also liked the partnership in crime with his wife. Helena Bonham Carter is solid and pulled off Madam Thenardier perfectly. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the unnecessarily lewd moment in "Master of the House", but it was over as soon as it started.
Samantha Barks was amazing, but I would have liked to see more Eponine. And I loved the students. I noticed a lot of edits in their scenes...and I don't usually notice edits. I really hope the studio will put out an extended version on DVD. The camaraderie between the students wasn't nearly as pronounced as it could have been. I missed Enjolras proudly swinging the big red flag from atop the huge barricade that came in from both sides of the stage...and then his body dramatically strewn across the top of the barricade. Although the film version did give a good answer to that one.
The end was gorgeous, of course, but Eponine was noticeably lacking. Along with Fantine, she helps ease Valjean into passing with a beautiful trio. I did like the presence of the bishop reaching out to Valjean. As for the finale, it seemed a little odd for Fantine and Valjean, presumably now in peaceful heaven, to be at the barricade. I prefer the stage ending.
Overall, loved it. I will see it again and again. The things I harped on are easily forgiveable. The story has so much to offer, as does the musical. Again, how very lucky I am to have had this musical in my life for 26 years. I am thankful that a version has finally been committed to film for future generations to enjoy.
Do you hear the people sing?
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3