Just saw Les Miserables (opened this weekend in the UK). 4 stars. Loved it.
I was a decent fan of the Les Mis before. Saw the musical, read the (unabridged) book, saw the movie with Geoffrey Rush as Javert, had whichever version of the CD it was where Lea Salonga sings On My Own (a rendition that will never be topped). SN. Just found out that Lea Salonga was Fantine in the 25th anniversary edition. Fascinating.
Hugh Jackman – expectedly good. Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried – surprisingly good singers! I was impressed. I Dreamed A Dream in the movie is essentially just Hathaway’s face with nothing more and it made me cry. That’s impressive. And Seyfried was an impressive soprano – not easy.
So call me crazy, but I didn’t think Russell Crowe was that bad. I’d read beforehand how everyone hated his singing, so maybe I was expecting the worst. But I wasn’t that bothered. I get why people were annoyed though. It wasn’t that he was out of tune – he wasn’t. There are two things about his voice that makes it stick out in the movie – he’s slightly nasally and he uses essentially no vibrato whatsoever – the best he can pull is a quiver on a down phrasing. If it goes up or it’s a held note, forget it. And those two qualities just don’t fit in a Theatrical Musical context, especially when every one else is open and vibrato-ing all over the place, except for Sasha Baron Cohen, who can get away with it because his singing is humorous, not sincere. But yeah, it’s not that his voice is bad, it just sticks out and is maybe inappropriate in the musical context because of the lack of vibrato. My claim is that were Sting in the movie, he would have stuck out just as much as Crowe. Musicals need vibrato. Not sure why; they just do. But yeah, personally, not that bothered. Maybe because my voice is “annoying” in the same ways – nasally with no vibrato whatsoever.
Honestly, I was more annoyed at Cohen’s singing. I think of Master Of The House as being rich and bawdy. He played it thin and ironic, I’m guessing partly because his voice isn’t strong. Just didn’t fit with how I see the song.
Interesting choice the director made to film things so close up. Made things visceral and hyper-emotional. It’s that anime trick – you get more emotion the bigger the eyes are. There’s this Youtube clip that shows how Spielberg uses this trick too, where he conveys emotion simply by having actors hold a face and doing a slow zoom / hold into them. But yeah, closeups make things hyperemotional, especially when the actors are crying themselves. Worked for me.
I cried when the priest gave Valjean the candlesticks. Mostly because of what it reminded me in the book. I hate to be the “book is so much better” guy. But it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and in all honestly impacted how I live my life. The 75-page asides he makes in the book are incredible (except for the boring one about the war and how bullets are still lodged in random houses), and the first one about the priest is incredibly inspiring and important because it sets the tone for the whole book. In short, it shows the power that mercy can have on lives. The priest provides spiritual mercy and transforms a life, who in turn transforms many other lives. A lot of the book is arguing for material mercy. But yeah, reading the book made me want to be a better Christian.
It’s also interesting to me who I relate to now. Les Mis is kind of a weird story in that it’s not one where young can relate. There are young characters, but it’s not really their story. It’s Valjean’s, and he’s already relatively old when it starts. So I never identified with anyone. But watching it now, I identify a bit with Valjean, in having lived a bit of life and having some regrets, knowing the power of mercy, and especially about the power you feel in the love you have for your children. I came out of the theatre wanting to run home and kiss my kids in bed. Can’t say I felt that watching the musical in high school.