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14 January 2013 @ 10:14 am
Les Mis  
Ted and I went to see Les Mis on Saturday. We were pretty stoic throughout, but the last scene had everybody in our row sobbing unashamedly. :) Anne Hathaway was absolutely brilliant. Everybody was good, but wow, she was incredible.

Having seen Les Mis on stage, I was pretty curious as to how it would play on the big screen. Largely, quite successfully, so behind the cut I will tear apart the things we liked and didn't like. :)

Much has been made of the actors performing the songs live instead of prerecording and lip syncing to the recordings. I gotta say, it paid off. So, the actors:

Anne Hathaway. Holy crap, Anne Hathaway. I never cared about Fantine before, despite seeing the show and listening to it thousands of times. She *owned* that role. That, she, just, wow. Wow. Holy crap. Wow. Really, there's not a whole lot else to say. It was the best performance in a film full of good ones.

Hugh Jackman. Well, he was very good, which I expected him to be. His transformation from slave to thief to saved, and his conflict throughout, was terrific. And he absolutely sells the kernel of his character in the three times he faces Javert post-breaking-parole. There is never any doubt that he will return after three days, that Javert will find him at home, that all he asks is an hour to save Marius's life--if Javert will let him go to attend those duties that he feels he must. And once he's gone beyond his fear of Javert, his compassion for the other man is equally believable. It was a very, very good performance.

That said, Valjean's part is overall slightly too high for Jackman's voice, and "Bring Him Home" is way too high. The slightly too highness wasn't so much a problem, but Ted and I both thought they should have brought "Bring Him Home" down an octave and let Jackman really own that song. I realize part of the point of the song is its octave, but the other point--to me the more important point--is the sweetness of tone, which he couldn't reach in that octave. We've seen Jackman perform on Broadway, so we both knew that if the song was in a different octave he *could* have made it his own. It would have been ballsy, because it's an iconic piece of Les Mis's music, but I would have really loved to see them take the reins on that one and bring it down so Jackman could have performed it more worthily.

Also, they really didn't need the song they added in hopes of being nominated for the Oscar for the Best Original Song.

Amanda Seyfried. Who knew she could sing? Really, really well, too, even if she suffers from the frequent soprano problem of being only partially comprehensible. And I know all the words.

Russell Crowe. People have been saying Russell Crowe is the weak link in the film. Eh. Yes and no. He's not as comfortable as some of the others, but OTOH, Javert has a stick up his ass anyway. I've read that his voice is "strangled", which again, eh. Maybe. He hasn't got the depth of power that I've heard Javert sung with before, nor, probably, the range. My perception of Javert's songs on stage and soundtracks is that they're full of rage and defiance, even unto the end when death is preferable to living in a world he can't, in essence, understand. For me, though, Crowe's Javert felt and sounded much more tragic than enraged, and I thought that worked really well.

The director should not have allowed Sasha Baron Cohen to do a French accent. No one else had one and it was distracting, not funny. That said, this is the first iteration of Les Mis I've encountered where I believed Thenardier and M. Thenardier were still in love with each other, for which Cohen and Bonham Carter get major props.

Poor Eponine. She knows she's never going to get the boy, and she's a good enough person to help him find the girl he loves *anyway*. I mean, that's a really good person. And because she knows Marius doesn't love her, she sees no way out from the utter horror that is her family. She deserves better (the altos in musicals usually do), and for her goodness, she dies (as altos in musicals often do). The woman who played her, Samantha Barks, has played Eponine on Broadway (or the West End, I can't remember) and brought utter confidence and pathos to the role. She was wonderful.

The staging:
Much more effective on film was the playing of small numbers at the barricades. On stage, it's the whole cast, so you don't really get the sense of how alone they are, even though the story tells you so. On film it was easier to see how few rebels there really were, and how the people didn't rise to join them.

The immediate flip side of that, however, is that "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is the single most heartbreaking scene I've ever seen on stage, and it utterly lacked the impact on film. On stage--at least the performance I saw--a scrim was brought down between the wrecked cafe and Marius. He was alone, in focus, in full color, and all the other students drifted onto stage behind the scrim, ghostly and faded and gone. It's a hugely powerful scene.

On screen, it suffered from the same thing that much of the film suffered from: too much focus on the singer's face. I mean, it's film, I understand why they did it, and the emotional impact of that was occasionally tremendous. But it left a lot of dead space behind them, space that could have been better utilized.

Furthermore, since in both Fantine and Valjean's death scenes we saw ghosts--Cosette's and Fantine's, respectively (even if Cosette wasn't actually dead, but nevermind that)--there's really no reason that in "Empty Chairs" they couldn't have employed the same effect as on stage, with the other students cleaning up the cafe and being brotherly in soft focus behind Marius. I mean, maybe they thought that would be over the top, but Les Mis is all about over the top, so I don't see how it would've been a problem. :)

In general, that was our biggest complaint with the film, the focus on faces and the resultant dead space. Which, I must say, isn't that big a complaint overall. :) I'd like to see it again, if I get the chance!
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on January 14th, 2013 04:20 pm (UTC)
I saw Les Miz last night, for the first time ever. I had most of the same reactions to the film that you did, although I found that the negatives had dragged me out of the "zone" enough that I didn't get teary at the end as so many others did.

[BTW, you'll be happy to know, if you didn't already hear, that Anne won the Golden Globe last night for her performance.]

I had the *exact* same reaction to that one song of Hugh Jackman's--by not changing the octave, they screwed him, and the movie. I've heard him sing, and he can be quite powerful; I wish they'd let him have the chance.

Amanda sang beautifully in Mama Mia! (If you haven't seen the movie, you should. It's fun.)

I thought the cast was great, especially the kids and some of the smaller parts. My complaints are all with choices made by the director, like the over-use of close ups. But overall, definitely a film worth seeing.

On a completely different note: I'm reading NO DOMINION and loving it. But I saw that a couple of the stories take place after the books that are out already. Should I wait to read them until I've read those books?
kitmizkit on January 14th, 2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
Do not under any circumstances read "Petite" or NO DOMINION itself until you have read SPIRIT DANCES and RAVEN CALLS! *looks stern*

I did see that Ms. Hathaway had won the GG. That's awesome. And I haven't seen Mama Mia, but one of these days I'll get around to it. :)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on January 14th, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
Ha! I, of course, read RAVEN CALLS about 2 minutes after it came out. *rolls eyes*

I was more worried about the stories that fall during or after bks 8 & 9, which aren't out yet.
kitmizkit on January 14th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, those. :) The only one I think is at all spoilery is "The Christmas Hollidays", so you may choose to skip that one if you wish. The others aren't spoilery, IMHO.
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on January 14th, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
You know, if would probably be easiest if you just sent me those other two books now. You know, just so I'm caught up :-)
kitmizkit on January 14th, 2013 04:37 pm (UTC)
Tell you what, I'll tell you how it all ends, instead:

Rocks fall, everybody dies. The end.
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on January 14th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
Very funny. Spoilsport.
Alix (Tersa): Hazel-Rah (tersa)tersa on January 14th, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
And I haven't seen Mama [sic] Mia, but one of these days I'll get around to it. :)

Doooooo eet. I really didn't like Seyfried or Dominic Cooper, who plays her character's boyfriend (then later went on to do a SMASHING JOB as Howard Stark in Captain America) and you have to plug your ears or sing over Pierce Brosnan, who just can't, but everyone else does a fabulous job (and oh my god, Christine Baranski doing "Does Your Mother Know That You're Out"--DYING) and it's a lot of fun except for one song late in Act II (because Act II always hits a draggy spot).

I saw it in the cinema, wound up renting it a few times because it was fun and telling people "You really need to see this", and broke down last year and finally bought it on DVD. :) That's the kind of movie it is.

Also: they have a sing-a-long special feature complete with karaoke track. :)
freyawfreyaw on January 15th, 2013 11:13 am (UTC)
Is this where I go neener neener neener because I already did? *innocent*

(I am one of those rare people for whom knowing what happens next makes no difference to my enjoyment, because I am reading and what is happening in front of my eyes is the important thing. I regularly read things out of order; my local library as a child had this habit of having ~50% of any series I was interested in in at any one time, with multiple copies of one book, usually book three.)
Childlightchildlight on January 14th, 2013 11:42 pm (UTC)
I am so happy to read someone else's thoughts on Les Miz. I started listening a live stage recording years ago and love the music even though at the time I had no clue what was happening in the story. I have now seen it on stage twice and loved it.

I shared a lot of your same thoughts. Love Anne Hathaway's performance. I thought Hugh Jackman put all of his heart and soul into this roll. I loved him as an actor but I just did not care for his singing voice. I was blowed away by Eddie Redmayne as Marius, I loved his voice. I did not care for Russell Crowe as Javert. I thought his singing voice was not strong enough. And I felt he lacked the passion I have seen in the Javert of the stage. But I also think it could be possible that this was Russell's opinion of how Javert would be.
I LOVED that Colm Wilkinson was cast as the Bishop. He is the Valjean on the recording I have and I adore him.
kitmizkit on January 15th, 2013 08:31 am (UTC)
Having seen Jackman on stage in a musical I can say with confidence that he can sing quite well, but yeah, the role wasn't quite suited for his voice.

!!! I did not know tht aws the original Valjean. That is SO WONDERFUL!
Catherine: pointsharpwords on January 14th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
I've seen it on stage before and also the 25th anniversary concert in the cinema. I was expecting to cry. I did. Anne Hathaway had me in floods of tears, but I think they actually started back on Jackman's soliloquy in the chapel.

Jackman = fabulous of course - I agree about 'Bring Him Home', I was really worried he wouldn't be able to get the high notes.
Hathaway = a revelation (deserves that GG for sure)
Crowe = meh, disappointing. My friend said he phoned it in.
Redmayne as Marius = loved him
Seyfried = Cosette always seems like a small role; she doesn't even get a song of her own as an adult, and it seemed an even lesser one in the film than on stage. But she did good; I thought her high sop was very pretty (and I'm not all that keen on high sop notes, being also an alto). Definitely see Mamma Mia though! I never liked Meryl Streep until I saw that.
Barks = one of only 2 actors to come from the West End show (the other was one of the students); she also sang Eponine for the 25th anniversary concert, and did a damn good job, esp wearing such a tiny corset and having to sing all her big numbers under a rain machine!

All the focus on faces had me looking for the earpieces I knew they were wearing!

But some of the staging was lovely. I really liked the old-dead-boat set for the doxies. And the appearance of the old Bishop (Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean) in the final death scene.

Basically, I want to see it again and again.
Childlightchildlight on January 15th, 2013 12:35 am (UTC)
I think in the stage performance it is Fantine and Eponine in the final death scene. I thought it was much better to have Fantine and the Bishop.

kitmizkit on January 15th, 2013 08:33 am (UTC)
I didn't think Crowe phoned it in. I thought he gave it everything he had, actually. But in terms of vocal ability, he was upstaged by all the people who are actually trained vocalists. :)
Catherinesharpwords on January 15th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
I disagreed with my friend about Crowe phoning it in, to be honest, and I think his voice held up OK seeing as he's not trained. But he was the weak link.

And yes, in the novel, Gavroche is the baby Thenardier (there's also another sister) though it's never mentioned in the musical that I can pick out. I agree that the film made it look like he was the student's brother!
Childlightchildlight on January 15th, 2013 12:36 am (UTC)
There has been some talk online that Gavroche is Eponine's little brother. Did you think that? I need to dig out my book and see if it is hinted about there.
angharaanghara on January 15th, 2013 12:45 am (UTC)
Yes, Gavroche is her brother. It isn't HINTED at in the book, it's explicit - there was also, I believe, a third sibling (which didn't make into the musical at all) - but those two are definitely siblings.
kitmizkit on January 15th, 2013 08:34 am (UTC)
Oh yeah? I thought he must have been the student who went after him's brother. I had no idea he was Eponine's brother!