Friday, December 28, 2012

And So It Must Be for So It Is Written

Are you ready for me to talk about Les Miserables? I've been eagerly anticipating it for a while now. Here are my thoughts.

It's great, of course, The story is wonderful and I love it. Did I cry? No. But I did feel sadness. I wish it were a little more family-friendly because I love the music and message of it. The bit with Fantine is rough. I probably won't take the kids, which is disappointing because I've been playing the music for them since Thanksgiving and I made them watch the 25th Anniversary special.  The parts that almost made me cry were the Bishop's candlesticks part (Colm Wilkinson is the Bishop. I DIE!) and Eponine's death. Sad.

Now, for my critique of the singing. This is all just a matter of my taste. I'm not a singer and I'm no great critic of musical theater. The kids are show-stealers (little Cosette, Gavroshe). Usually little singing and dancing kids are so horrible and obnoxious. But these little guys are a treat to watch. Eponine is the stage actress so she's a wonderful—a real pro. Amanda Siegfried is sure pretty with big eyes and a face like frying pan but her voice is flimsy and wiggly. Whatever. Grown up Cosette is boring anyway. Her freckle-faced Marius seems like a great guy. I like him. But he sings like a woman a lot of the time. Too bad stage-performer Enjolras didn't survive the barricade. Am I right, ladies?
The movie-actor Enjolras is enthusiastic and vibrant. He's good. I'm sad that he dies. Sacha Baron Cohen is great. He has some kind of elusive star quality that people often talk about.

Now, I don't want to make too much of this, but I don't totally enjoy Hugh Jackman's voice. He sings well and hits notes but it has a quality to it that I find unappealing—grating, even.  That said, I think he makes an excellent Jean Valjean in terms of acting. I love Hugh Jackman. I think he feels the weight of the morality in the story. He is famously faithful to his wife who suffered miscarriage after miscarriage before they adopted their kids. I think he brings his experience as adoptive father (by which I mean, father) to his role with Cosette. He was fantastic. That said, I wouldn't buy the soundtrack to hear any of his songs again.

But what I would buy and what I find myself listening to over and over again, is Russell Crowe as Javert. I think he may technically not be a great singer of musicals—his voice isn't as loud and booming as it should be. But I loved him in this movie. I love his version of Stars. I love how his sweet little baby voice undercuts the blustering certitude of Javert. I like his fat face and beady eyes and I was just so moved by it. Obvs, Javert is one of the most interesting, misguided characters ever. I haven't read the whole book but I know I should and I want to. Still, I relate to Javert's small-minded clinging to his understanding of truth and rules and justice. It is easy to mistake vengeance for a kind of integrity. When you see a better man, when you benefit from the mercy of a better person it makes you feel like crap because you kind of still hate them. I know how it is, Javert. Oh, Javert.


And what can I say about Anne Hathaway that hasn't already been said by everyone, including herself? I heard some people after the movie saying that when Jean Valjean sees her in "Heaven" at the end she should have had her long hair restored. That made me mad. She's so fetching with short hair. It is true that she gives up her pride and vanity in the service of her child (don't we all). But I like to think that by doing so you gain insight and perspective so you care about bigger things—the sacrifice of teeth an hair seems small within the bigger picture. I just hope growing my hair out in Heaven isn't a "thing."

Have you seen it? What did you think?

22 comments:

  1. So she was as unselfish as she explained to us several times? Seriously. . .if I go to heaven and all the ladies have long hair (probably pulled back in scrunchies or big bows), I will turn around and leave. Awesome eternal life be damned.

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  2. I liked Russel Crowe too, "sweet little baby voice" is the perfect description. I look forward to his Jor-El. I love Hugh Jackman because of things you've told me about him, and how he takes pride in being Wolverine and embraces geekdom (unlike some Christian Bale-ian types) so I enjoy his singing just because I like him so much. I do feel that he might fall in to the problem I have with actors in general, when the get too into their performances, it makes me uncomfortable. I don't like going to plays for this reason. Also I like him for stuff like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fipSEmdj3i0

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  3. Remember when we went to the musical in Salt Lake? I still remember what I wore. Can't wait to see the movie!! But I am bummed it's not kid-friendly. I wanted Holden to get to see it.

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  4. I liked Russell Crowe a lot in this movie. I also didn't really care for Hugh Jackman's singing. I did cry. I thought Anne Hathaway was stupendous. I thought Marius was better than any stage version of him I've heard.

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  5. Giiirl, you do NOT want to read the whole book. Unless you're super interested in long passages on the battle of Waterloo and stuff. Get the abridged version. I majored in English, abridged versions are an abomination, etc. NO. You will not miss those 40 pages.

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  6. Nice review. Couldn't agree more about the kids and Sacha Baron Cohen and Amanda Seyfried. I wanted Russell Crowe to be a better singer and was surprised at how much I didn't mind him playing his character (not that I loved it, but he didn't bug me as much as I suspected he would). I didn't cry (couldn't even believe that one myself) but came close at the end. I wanted Hugh Jackman to be a better singer, but I was satisfied with his performance. With all the talk of long hair/short hair in Heaven I can't believe there has barely been mention of whether or not she was wearing pants (zing!).

    Can we talk about Eponine's waist?

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  7. Ha. I was waiting for this review. Though you definitely liked it more than I did, I like your review better than all the comments on facebook calling it the "most amazing movie of all time," and blah blah blah. I did like the kids in it. Gavrosche (sp?) was fantastic, bad teeth and all. Lastly, I super hated when Javert jumped and you heard the sound of his head hitting the concrete/cement/whatever. Yikes.

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  8. Seriously? Nobody cried? At all? I came really close about four times (I Dreamed a Dream...anyone?) and finally shed a single tear at the end when he was walking towar the Bishop. I feel my tear was very poetically timed and glad it wasn't followed by a second which would have ruined everything.

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  9. I did not love it. But I found it interesting and moving even so, at least in parts. I read somewhere that Hugh Jackman was singing at the tippy top of his range and maybe beyond...that could explain why I wasn't a fan of his voice, because he alone among the major players in the cast is actually capable of headlining a Broadway show as a song and dance man. I bet his voice is better than this role showed it to be. Anyway. And who in the world would be worrying about Ann Hathaway's/Fantine's hair? She's in heaven! Her fingernails were clean!

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  10. I have not seen it yet. I wanted to take all of my kids to a movie yesterday, so I took them to see The Life of Pi. Oh, my. SO GOOD!! I am inclined to say I liked it more than the book, and I never say that! I hope I like LM better than the book because that sucker is hard to read. I am excited and plan to take my older girls. They are 13, 14 and 15. I hope it is teen friendly.

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  11. I loved all of it. And I cried (a lot.) I loved that this version focused as much on the acting as the singing. Even the regular stage actors dialed the drama down a little and un-prettied their voices to give more emotion and depth to their songs. I do like Hugh Jackman's voice, but if I want to listen to the music, I would still probably listen to the Bradway version just because the way they sing the songs on the movie aren't as fun to listen to unless you are watching as well.
    I agree about Javert, although Russell Crowe is one of my favorites and I would probably like him no matter what. I think that he held his own just fine during 90% of the movie, when he wasn't required to really belt something out. I just enjoyed the movie overall. I love it when I am not disappointed in something I have looked forward to watching.

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  12. Face like a frying pan. Oh my spot-on-ness! Just saw it. Cried. A. Lot. Went in to the movie prepared to forgive Hugh because Valjean is just too big a role for most men - even the yummiest of them. But was so pleasantly surprised with Anne. Yes. That's right. First name basis with them all. I did not like Russel. I want Javert to be a force to be reckoned with and Russel's baby voice did him in. Plus, I am in LOVE with Norm Lewis in that role. Is is possible to fall for someone because of their ability to enunciate while sing/yelling? Cuz I am gaga for his articulability. What? That's a word.

    I have been outraged about the Jonas version of Marius for so long that I found this freckled-faced version to be a breath of fresh air. And I thought he hit Empty Chairs out of the park.

    I have been a longtime fan of all things Les Miz. And I say, read the book. The unabridged. But skip all the sewer and revolution-detail chapters (unless you're into that - stranger hobbies exist). Self-abridgment is my moto.

    There were book things added back into the movie that I so appreciated - like the elephant Gavroche lives in. I also think the thunking of Javert's body completely distracted from the power of that scene.

    So good!

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  13. I just came back from seeing this movie and I agree with everything you said, except Russel Crowe. I thought he could have been a little more passion-filled. He was a bit boring and his suicide was horrid. I too had been hoping that my kids could see it as they have been very interested in the story and the music. It's a shame they couldn't have glossed over some aspects just a bit. I loved the scenes with Colm Wilkinson. So beautiful and touching.

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  14. I cried from almost the first note. I thought Marius, Fantine and Eponine did the best job, but I love Hugh Jackman, so I was willing to forgive him a lot. I don't like Russell Crowe, and I didn't love his singing. But he did a better job than I expected. I'm still thinking about taking my fourteen year old, and sending him out for popcorn after Fantine gets fired. I also came home and googled the elephant!

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  15. Anonymous10:17 PM

    I loved the movie and I thought Eddie Redmayne was the best part. He is a fantastic actor - watch Birdsong or The Pillars of the Earth.

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  16. I did not realize just how important good, clear, supported, powerful singing is to me until I found myself nearly in tears at the lack of it. Even though the acting was mostly fabulous, I just wanted ANY of the major characters to open their mouth and really hit the notes.

    But I have to admit it was a brilliant innovation to cast one of the most beloved musicals of all-time with weak sinngers. ;)

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  17. I loved the enitire thing, and cried like a little baby at the end. I felt like the actors brought real, raw emotion to their respective songs--hence not so many perfect notes. And I was ok with that. I keep wondering why Amanda Seyfreid gets cast in musicals, oh, now I remember...and I couldn't disagree more with you on Russel Crowe's performance as Javert. His singing was all right, but I felt his portrayal of Javert was terribly wooden. But I absolutely LOVED Hugh Jackman. He was fabulous from start to finish. But you're right, I won't be buying the soundtrack for this movie. Let's stick with the broadway cast for that.

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  18. I would have to agree with you on Hugh Jackman's voice. I was rather disappointed. But no where near as disappointed as with the explicit sex scenes. I was reading the book to get ready for it, and Victor Hugo never got sensational or explicit. Stupid Hollywood. Stories like this ought to be shared, but when they ruin it with garbage I would never show it to a child.

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    1. Hurray! Someone finally who shares my views about the explicit sex scenes. I was uncomfortable with the prostitution scences but was told by many that this is "real life." Okay. I guess. But the scene in "Master of the House" was totally unnecessary and has put a damper on my enthusiasm for the movie. Stupid Hollywood is right. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

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    2. I agree with y'all on the sex scenes. Totally uncalled for. Yes I realize the prostitutes are a part of the story, but they could have done one scene more tastefully. Same with "Santa." What was that? I did not like Russel Crow's singing, but I thought everyone else was pretty good. Not as good as broadway, but good enough!

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  19. You say very wise things, and this is among them:
    "It is easy to mistake vengeance for a kind of integrity."

    And the unabridged version is not a big deal. The extra information is not always germane to the story, but you still learn interesting things from it.

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  20. I enjoyed your review, and I am totally laughing at your descriptions of all the differnt actors. "face like a frying pan" "wiggly voice" etc. Ha!
    Here's my take:
    http://craftandopinion.blogspot.com/2013/01/les-miserables-it-was-fantastic-but-im.html

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