Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Les Miserable as a Movie: My Thoughts

I just returned from seeing the Les Miserable movie and I am so hyped up. I need to share my thoughts with EVERYONE. I have, of course, gone over all this with my beloved baby sister, who shares my love for this story and the music. I will not be able to sleep tonight until I get all the thoughts out of my head though. So internet, thanks for being here to receive them.

My history with Les Miserable (just for background, feel free to skip): I have a long one. I have loved musicals since being introduced to Annie as a preschooler. I saw my first staged production at age 7 (it was The Sound of Music). By the time I was 11 I had seen Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Brigadoon, and Starlight Express-all performed in London's West End. But I wasn't a serious connoisseur of musicals until high school.  It began as a flirtation with The Phantom of the Opera (which I soon realized was ridiculous) and quickly moved to Les Miserables. I had the Original London Cast recording on cassette originally and eventually snapped it from playing it so much. My junior year of high school the 10th Anniversary edition became available, which became (and still is) my go to version of the musical. My sister, in her young wisdom, asked for the full International recording for something and got it. Between us we cobbled together an epic full version from all three recordings. We were dedicated. I saw it on Broadway for the first time when I was 18, but I knew every note and word of it long before I got there. I have seen it performed three times since then by National Tours. I still listen to it in its entirety at least twice a month. Musicals are big part of my life. I love Wicked, adore Chess, am moved beyond belief at Miss Saigon., and have a great appreciation for anything Sondheim. I look forward to the Tony Awards every year with an excitement most people feel for the Super Bowl. But through all of these years Les Miserables has remained my absolute favorite.

The point to all that is to tell you that I know this musical. Very well. It is imprinted on my heart. And I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned about it being turned into a movie.

My verdict: They did a fantastic job. I teared up several times and bawled like a baby three. That's pretty amazing considering I knew every word-or almost-that was being sung.

Spoiler Alert! If you don't know anything about Les Mis and don't wish to be spoiled for the movie stop reading. If you know the play and don't want to know what they changed stop reading.

My thoughts: 
Hugh Jackman was phenomenal.

Russell Crowe was not. Although he didn't ruin it for me, and I was worried he would if his performance was awful. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. It was very rote, with little emotion and he sung his part with a sort of rock star vibe that doesn't fit Javert at all.

I love that they cast Colm Wilkinson to play the Bishop. That was just lovely. (For those who don't know-he was the original Valjean in both London and New York.)

"Lovely Ladies" is gritty and harsh. What they can mask easier on a stage is more in your face on the screen. It made what followed all the more powerful. Which brings me to...

Anne Hathaway made me cry when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" (bawling instance #1) and I have NEVER cried during that song before.

As evidenced by the previous two comments: They changed the order of several songs, and each time they did it made sense and flowed beautifully.
 
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were brilliant as the Thenardiers. I knew they would be. Best. Casting. Ever.

The original song was  unnecessary and sappy, made even more so by the fact that they...

CUT PARTS OUT OF "A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN", AND "DRINK WITH ME", PROBABLY TO MAKE ROOM FOR IT. Ugh. Just ugh. WHY??????

Amanda Seyfried sang Cosette's part beautifully, but with little personality. Probably because Cosette just doesn't have one.

Samantha Barks was an amazing antithesis to this, bringing to Eponine all the heart, courage, and tragedy that one could hope for. She made me want to shout louder than ever during "In My Life", "Hey Marius, you idiot! Turn around and look at the girl behind you. She's the awesome one!" 

I loved how they wove parts in the novel they cut for the stage production back in: Marius' history and relationship with his grandfather, how close of a proximity he lived to Eponine (therefore establishing they actually knew each other fairly well), Eponine's death scene is changed back to the way it happens in the book, and the part about her stealing Cosette's letter was added back. All of this makes the Marius/Eponine story richer in my opinion. Which is another reason it was so annoying that they CUT OUT PART OF "A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN".

I adored all those silly rich school boys. Their camaraderie, their misguided passion for change, their courage.

That kid they cast to play Gavroche. I...can't even...so perfect, adorable...and yeah. (Bawling instance #2)

"Do You Hear the People Sing"-oh all the feels.

I LOVED the way they did Enjolras' death scene. The hanging upside down with the red flag flowing around him is such an iconic scene from the stage production. I loved they included it. AND that Grantaire was standing right next to him. SOB! (Though it would have packed more of an emotional punch if they hadn't cut the "Can it be you fear to die? Will the world remember you when you go? Could it be your death means nothing at all? Is your life just one more lie?" confrontation between the two out of "Drink with Me". Again, WHY????

The sewers of Paris were a little too realistic. (I gagged a bit.)

Javert jumping off the bridge-OUCH! Thanks for the up close and personal shot and sound of that movie makers.

Something else they cut was Marius slamming the Thenardier's for being such beastly parents to Eponine. This was apparently left out to make way for two extra lines of Cosette whining.

The end. The MINOR change they made was necessary and works brilliantly. The way they did it, the note it ends on....bawling instance #3.

I am going to work as hard as I can to see it again before the week is out.

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