For those who may not know, Les Miserables is my favourite musical of all time! I have been looking forward to the release of this movie since it was announced and did a happy dance for at least 10 minutes when I read the synopsis of the project. This being my first published “Rants & Rambles” (yes, I have more partially written, but not completed), I thought it appropriate that it should be on the film version of Les Miserables which opened on Christmas Day 2012 (what more could a girl ask for on Christmas?!).
Being a purest of the show and extreme fan, my excitement for the epic film version was tempered by my fear of it being put through the Hollywood washing machine and cleaned of all meaning and significance. Despite this, I knew that there must be some tweaks and touches to adapt the show to the new format. As a writer, I am pretty reasonable when it comes to making changes to the story so it is clearer to the audience, so I was prepared to accept some minor alterations for the benefit of storytelling, but that is it. With that, here we go...
THERE ARE LIKELY A LOT OF SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE STORY
My thoughts before the movie (and from watching trailers):
- Hugh Jackman as Valjean = YAY
- Russell Crowe as Javert = Oh no! He cannot sing, but I’m not a huge Javert fan anyway and at least he is kind of pretty.
- Anne Hathaway as Fantine = I don’t like her, but at least Fantine dies early; also, can she sing?
- Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier = Yay!
- Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thenardier = I don’t like her
- Amanda Seyfried as Cosette = I don’t like her, but she can sing and I don’t usually care for Cosette anyway!
- Rest of the cast seem like they are from music theatre, so thank goodness for some common sense!
So, knowing this, here is my rant:
To start: I saw the movie twice on opening day. The first time I arrived late and was forced to sit in the front row. The second time, I was in the back row. I don’t know why people don’t sit in the very back more often. You can actually see the entire screen and the sound is incredible (which was sorely lacking in the front row). It is also usually less crowded. All in all, a win-win.
The Movie (in elongated point form):
- Title screens throughout are a nice touch to keep audience on same page! Nicely done!
- The cinematography is beautiful but is extremely overdramatic at many points through the film. This is one of my biggest issues. I Dreamed A Dream is beautiful, powerful and engaging but most importantly: it is simply filmed. The story is powerful enough and the dramatic shots and extreme close-ups for effect are distracting and annoying. Also, the spinning camera while singing starts to make you nauseous after a while. The beauty of simplicity is lost at many points in the film.
- Prologue/Look Down was SLOW!!! I haven’t a clue why they slowed it down, especially because it is the first song of the show. It was like pulling teeth to get to the next line.
- Poor Russell Crowe! From the very moment he opens his mouth, you feel sorry for him. *sad face*
- The new lyrics or lyric changes that they made to adapt to screen are poor at best. They don’t fit with the musicality of the show and stick out like a sore thumb. Also, the rhyming scheme for many of them is terrible!!! I cringed every time. I get that some lyrics needed to be tweaked to make it fit the story of the film, but seriously, they had extra music to work with; why not tweak what already exists?!
- A very nice moment is when Javert has Valjean collect the flag. Beautifully establishes Valjean’s freakish strength and has some nice symbolism: Javert respects the country he serves by commanding that the flag not be left behind and Valjean shows that in his toil, he carries the country on his back.
- COLM!!!! YAY!!!! Thank you from all the devotees!!!! Though, not used to the best of his ability. Actually, I take that back. I just want to hear a nice belt from him and was hoping they would vamp up the Bishop’s role and let him belt some of the notes. Alas, Colm is probably too much of purest as well to go for that...
- Not a fan of the change from “bought soul for God” to “saved soul for God”. I get that the concept of buying a soul is probably not PC, but still. It’s the idea is that Valjean can take the silver if he is willing to change his ways. Valjean makes the choice to save his own soul, not the Bishop. Fail!
- Oh Hugh!!! So much love! What Have I Done is lovely and beautifully performed. I was worried about the exent of Hugh’s range because Valjean is a hard role to sing, but he does an admirable job. This song is one of his best in the film.
- Beautiful transition to At the End of the Day. This is an example of how the whole film should have gone. There is enough song and incidental music in the show, that there should have been constant music throughout. The spaces between the music suck the life out and it is one of the major weaknesses of the film.
- Hate the actors looking directly into the camera while singing. It was used to often and at weird times. So awkward. Factory Scene is the worst for it. Creepy (and not in the good way)!!!!!
- Anne Hathaway is brilliant! (Note: I was very pessimistic about her going in, so this should hold much more weight!) Only thing, the word “childhood” in I Dreamed a Dream was really weird (but that’s me being nit-picky).
- My heart bleeds for Russell in his duets with Hugh. You can tell that Hugh is trying to not oversing and make Russell look bad, but it is painful to watch. Crowe is so out of his depth in this cast. Everyone else brings their ‘A’ game (with the exception of Bonham Carter, but we’ll get there) and he is so piteously terrible.
- The candlesticks are a nice image that is carried through
- Who Am I? is good but Hugh speaks the final “Jean Valjean” which is disappointing. “24601” is great!
- Great casting on the Cosettes!
- Nice visual into to the Young Cosette
- Russell is not terrible in The Confrontation
- Helena Bonham Carter is terrible. She cannot sing Mme. Thenardier which is sad because the role is relatively easy to sing. She also sucks all the comedy out of the part. Please stop putting her in musicals!
- Master of the House was poorly done. This should be the one relief that the audience has from the pain and struggle of the rest of the characters and it was slow. It failed to add the energy to the story like it should.
- The lines added for Valjean and Cosette in the woods are creepy and poorly written. A man approaching a child in the woods and asking her to show him where she lives is weird. There were so many lines cut or changed (my feeling is to make it more PC) and they choose to add these awkward lines. In all my viewings, this has always received a laugh from the audience (and there should not be a laugh at this point).
- Sacha Baron Cohen is extremely entertaining to watch and plays the role of Thenardier nicely. He can’t sing terribly well, but pulls it off with his charming performance. I wish the same could be said for his partner.
- The additional “Oscar” song is TERRIBLE!!!! It sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t have any of the musicality or beauty of the rest of the score. It is very simple and extremely unnecessary. I wish that they would stop compromising the art of the piece in order to accommodate awards category requirements.
- Gavroche is cute but misused. They cut Little People which is what endears him to the audience and his death is unsympathetic. Instead of sneaking around to collect ammunition, he is blatantly dancing in the face of the French army, no wonder he gets shot!
- Enjolras and Marius are lovely. Both sing the parts extremely well!
- I don’t like the cuts they made and I don’t like the additions. Bah humbug!
- Amanda Seyfried is lovely as Cosette and sings like a canary. I don’t normally like the Marius and Cosette storyline, but Eddie Redmayne and Seyfried make them enjoyable and sweet. I actually found that I liked them as characters, which is new. YAY!
- I’m unsure about my feelings about the change in events, aka having Gavroche deliver Marius’ letter to Cosette and putting On My Own before One Day More. I feel like it was unnecessary and didn’t really add anything to the plot. It felt like a change for the sake of a change.
- Eponine binding her breasts in One Day More is again unnecessary. It seems like it was a way to add something “sexy” into the filming. It could have been accomplished by simple showing her dressing as a boy. I feel like the entire film fell short on the Eponine story. Very sad!
- They cut all the battle music!!! WHAT?! The battle music is, again, a point where some energy is infused into the score, but it was replaced by other underscoring which was not nearly as powerful. Balls!
- Also, they changed Valjean’s address... why? Again, something that seems to be changed for no real purpose.
- Drink With Me was cut down to the reprise. Such a beautiful moment that actually makes the audience sympathize with the revolutionaries and therefore makes their slaughter in the morning more powerful. As it stood, the slaughter of the students was too fast and had less effect than it should have.
- Valjean’s last moment with Marius is Bring Him Home was weird.
- The coffin imagery at the barricade was a little over the head. It could be slightly more subtle.
- Enjolras’ death was nice; though Grantaire didn’t really need to be there.
- The streets running with blood was nice, as was the homage to Turning, but the entire battle, barricades and rebellion seemed so small that I questioned if it would have left that much blood. The battles needed to be more epic. It seemed like it was just 15 boys on one street.
- The sewers were nice but I did miss Dog Eat Dog.
- Javert’s Suicide was painful. Also, having him crack off the corner of the falls was comical. Not really the intention of that scene, but I guess when you haven’t cared for the character, you need to add something in for effect.
- Too many extreme close-ups and hand held cameras!!!! I was nauseous by the end of the film.
- Why is the doctor singing in Everyday Medley?
- Not a fan of the change in lines when Valjean hands Cosette his final confession.
- Love the reappearance of Colm at the end!
- Beautiful last moment on the barricade!
All in all, I would have to say that I enjoyed the film. It had some wonderful performances and if you are not obsessed with the show, as I am, you probably didn’t notice all the things that drove me nuts. Mostly, I appreciate the attention the film is getting which will encourage a new breed of potential theatre goers!