amatyultare: (bookworm glee)
[personal profile] amatyultare
Oh hey, it's my LiveJournal! I haven't used this since January, for the annual year-end meme! But I have a lot of FEELINGS about Les Misérables, specifically the movie musical version that came out recently. So I return to LJ to, as I have so often in the past, vent.

Oh, and I assume that anyone interested in my thoughts on the movie probably has a pretty good idea already of how the story goes, but just in case, warning: yes there will be spoilers.

I'm not going to go through the whole movie; it follows the plot of the musical very closely, with a few alterations (usually making the story adhere more closely to the book, interestingly) and song-shortenings/cuttings. Instead, let's discuss a few of the best and worst elements of the movie.

The Good
Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Or, to be more accurate to my feelings, ANNE HATHAWAY!!! I've never even been much of an Anne Hathaway fan before now, but she was REALLY fantastic in this. I've always struggled to connect to I Dreamed A Dream; it's a lovely song but most singers seem to play it fairly wistfully, or just focus on the story it's telling. Anne goes in a very emotional direction, and it punches you in the gut.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. Some will disagree with me, but I think he did a good job. What he lacks in singing ability - he's not an awful singer, but he's also not on the level of some of the other cast members - he makes up for in enthusiastic acting. I believed in his Valjean.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thérnardiers. I mean, really, this is just brilliant casting - perhaps the best in the movie (besides Anne Hathaway). Also, they get by far the best-put-together musical number in the movie, Master of the House - but we'll get to the cinematography later.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius, when he's singing. You know another song that I've had a hard time connecting with? Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Until this movie. I cried, y'all.

The Meh
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Look, I like Amanda Seyfried, and she tried her best, but she had two strikes against her. First, let's be honest; throughout the musical, Cosette is much more a plot device than a fleshed-out character. Even her romance feels like a contrivance (although at least in the stage musical, she and Marius SAY A FEW WORDS TO EACH OTHER before they fall truly, madly, deeply in love with each other. I'm just saying). Add to that, the singing part is just too high for poor Amanda. But she does try, and she's certainly not the weakest link in this version. But we'll get there.

Eddie Redmayne (Marius) when he's not singing, because he seemed to sometimes forget he was on-camera? And he would stare at the other actors in a sort of pleasant confusion, no matter what was happening in the actual scene? Very odd.

Samantha Barks as Eponine. Okay, that's not entirely fair. Samantha Barks clearly knows the part - she played Eponine in the West End production, and in the 25th anniversary concert - and we can all be VERY grateful that the role didn't go to Taylor Swift. It's more that she doesn't have a ton of material to work with here. The movie cuts and compresses Eponine's story, and it ends up losing a lot of its emotional resonance. A Little Fall of Rain still made me tear up, though.

The Bad
Russell Crowe as Javert. This, if you are wondering, is this movie's weakest link. It's bad enough that this part is written, I am guessing, for a high baritone, while Russell Crowe is definitely a bass. So he's singing a part far too high for him, and oh man, can you tell. He compensates by singing through his nose, which sounds about as good as you'd expect. By about a third of the way through the movie I started wincing in secondhand embarrassment every time he opened his mouth. And on an acting level, Russell really was not trying very hard? Javert can be a great and subtle character - a "bad guy", but one whose motivations are understandable - but all of that gets lost in this performance. It's really a shame.

The cinematography. Tom Hooper no doubt will get a whole pile of Best Director awards for this, but I'm not sure if he quite deserves them. There are a couple of scenes that are well-staged: Master of the House is fantastic, I found The Confrontation quite effective, and Lovely Ladies worked pretty well. But. Almost all of the other musical numbers begin with a fairly close shot of the singer (from the mid-chest up) AND JUST STAY THERE. This gets particularly weird when the actor moves and the camera moves with them to keep the same exact shot; occasionally it works, but mostly it seems bizarre and almost disorienting. I feel like someone needed to say, "Hey Tom! You know this isn't actually a stage musical, right? We can set up multiple cameras! We can get coverage! We can do more than one take!" (Well, okay, that was made more difficult by the decision to record all of the singing as they were filming, but still.)

At The End Of The Day...I really think this movie is worth a watch, especially if you are a fan of the musical. It's fun and entertaining overall, and I Dreamed A Dream, Master of the House, and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables are worth the price of admission by themselves. Just...don't get your hopes too high for the Javert scenes, and you'll probably enjoy it.
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