Movie Night: Les Misérables

Last night Chico took me out on a date for dinner and a movie.  I love date nights!  We saw “Les Misérables” which I had wanted to see but never got to.

Les MisérablesBefore I go any further, I will say that those of us who know and love the stage version of Les Mis will only be able to fully enjoy this film if we check our musical expectations at the door.  That said, the acting was fine, the film was visually stunning, my biggest disappointment was Hugh Jackman, and my greatest delight was Anne Hathaway.

First, the negatives: I’ve always been a fan of Russel Crowe, especially since “Master and Commander” (he makes ruffles look SEXY!).  But, not to put too fine a point on it, his singing was, well… weak.  He can carry a tune, yes, and he was clearly trying hard.  I think we all expected him to sound bad, but his obvious discomfort at having to sing made him appear stiff and uncomfortable on screen.  One could argue that Javert is a stiff character, but for the most part I thought Crowe just looked pained at having to sing.

And then there’s Hugh Jackman.  I had heard and read that he was on broadway and was a talented singer.  I even heard him singing at a Tony awards ceremony and in some YouTube videos, so I had high expectations.  Talk about disappointment!  His singing, while better than Crowe’s, is by no means good.  After hearing his first song, I realized I had to seriously lower my musical expectations.  As far as acting goes, he is fine, though I would argue that Valjean is not a particularly challenging or nuanced character.

Not to harp on, but another let-down were Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter as the Thenardiers.  Their “Master of the House” scene was disappointingly lame, and I struggled to understand many of Helena Bonham-Carter’s lyrics (I had the same problem with her singing in “Sweeny Todd”).  Thankfully, I already knew all the words, so her lack of enunciation couldn’t leave me mystified. Foiled, madam!  I felt the director could have done so much more with Baron Cohen’s comic genius (did anyone else find him hysterical in “Hugo”??).

After accordingly lowering my standards, imagine my delight when Anne Hathaway showed up.  True, her voice is not particularly strong, but it is clear, true and wonderfully fragile.  The close-up camera during the iconic “I Dreamed a Dream” aria was harrowing, and her performance was, I believe, the strongest of the film.  She was heartbreaking and, frankly, perfect.  Well done.

The younger members of the cast were the most talented, and Marius, Cosette, Eponine, Enjourlas and the children are all quite good.  As I said, the film looks amazing: gritty, dark, with great sets.  Despite sounding like a Debbie downer, I really did enjoy the film!  There’s plenty of eye candy and who doesn’t love a costume drama?  I DO!!

Jane

The Brain In Jane works mainly in the rain. It's always raining somewhere. Find me on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

2 thoughts to “Movie Night: Les Misérables”

  1. Sorry but you are WRONG about Hugh Jackman. He’s amazing. And what a progression! On stage, Valjean looks and sounds the same the whole way through. In the film, you really see his evolution, and aging, from his prison time to being mayor to meeting Fantine and Cosette and finally to his last days of reconciliation. I’ve never seen Hugh Jackman on stage, but have you seen his performances at the Tony’s and Oscars? Fabulous! Remember that they’re singing live in the film, so it’s more raw and the voices are quite separate from the orchestral score. (I just watched West Side Story, and the voices are completely out of sync with the lip movement! But things have moved on since then…)

    I was almost expecting to be disappointed with Anne Hathaway, how could she possibly live up to the hype, but I totally agree with you: she completely reinvented that song, and really conveyed the desperation situation she descends into. I was impressed with Eddie Redmayne’s rendition of Empty Chairs as well, so tragic.

    And ultimately, so very much better than most other film versions of musicals – I’m thinking of Phantom of the Opera and Rent in particular…

    1. You’re right about Valjean not progressing much on stage and Hugh Jackman showing some development in the character. But I was disappointed in his singing. I found his rendition of “Bring Him Home” particularly painful. That they’re singing live on the film is great and all, but after hearing Hugh (yes, we’re on first name terms, apparently) sing so well at the Tonys and Oscars, I was disappointed.

      I wanted to bundle Eddie Redmayne up and take him home with me and have him sing me to sleep every night. That would be his job. Though to be fair, he’ll probably make more money in Hollywood…

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