Here before you, I present my review of Les Misérables, the long-awaited 2012 movie. It’s full of honesty, criticism, and spoilers, so if you want to see it and haven’t, stop reading now.
If you know me at all, you know that I am a drama geek. A showtune-loving, spontaneously-breaking-out-into-singing, choreographed-dancing theater buff and resident musical expert. I was in a ton of shows when I was younger, and I saw well over 100 – all before I graduated high school. That being said, I get attached to certain musicals, and Les Mis is not an exception.
Given the quality and artistic license that many movie adaptations can and do take, I had seriously high hopes – ones I had expected to be crushed like the French Revolution. I also never go see a movie a) in the theaters, and b) on opening day, but I went to the first showing this morning. That tells you how excited I was for this, but I entered the theater like a nervous factory worker-turned-prostitute that was venturing into her first sale. And given the trailer, wouldn’t you be worried?
And given that, wouldn’t you be expecting something epic? But if you’re like me, you’d know that every time a movie is made about a musical, it ends up falling short somehow. Take RENT for example. Sigh. At least they got the original cast, right? Anyway, enough backstory. Here is my expectation, with my reality of the film.
Anne Hathaway as Fantine:
This had me very nervous, because while she’s one of my favorite actresses, I didn’t know if she had the pipes to do Patti LuPone proud. She was the original Fantine and she OWNS that song. When I have dreamed that I am singing this song, I sound like her. I mean, come on. LISTEN to the woman. She is a legend, and it’s really, really hard to upstage a legend.
All the trailers killed this song to death, and to be honest, I wasn’t horribly impressed with Anne’s version. Mostly because I have Patti in my head, and my version, and Anne’s was just so less angsty and less sad, and way more acty. The actors sang on set with a piano, so I’m sure there were several different takes, with the songs sun differently. I am now convinced that the version(s) used in the trailers aren’t the ones used in the film, because it was angsty, and sad, and gritty, and wistful.
AND someone must have been yelling “Sing out, Louise!” at Anne, because she finally belted the end. Like you’re supposed to. PHEW. Thank GOD they used that version, I nearly cried I was so happy she didn’t ruin it. I figured she’d be too pretty to be Fantine, because Fantine has to be dirty and wretched, and I was right. She’s still gorgeous, even with a pixie cut. But overall, I was impressed with her.
Hugh Jackman as Valjean
He handles the singing well, untill he needs to be pleading in “Bring Him Home.” That was all wispy and not very…good. The notes are a little high and he seems strained with a lot of them. Colm Wilkinson will forever be Valjean to me. He’s a singer, Jackman is not, but comes close. Everything else (aside from the aging) seems to fit Jackman better.
Generally, he was ok as Valjean. I really do think that they might have found a better singer-slash-actor, and not the other way around, but he wasn’t terrible. Just the makeup artistry.
Russel Crowe as Javert
I was most worried about this, and he was le terrible. He’s a decent enough singer, can hit the notes in his head voice, and meh, it’s ok. He at least looks the part of an angry policeman that ages as he chases someone that keeps disappearing, but that’s where it stops. He sings it about as well as my uncle, but with WAY less conviction. Javert is supposed to be noble, dedicated, and pissed off.
Really, Javert only gets one major solo, and it’s “Stars.” And When Russell Crowe sang it, I just was not convinced that this was a guy that truly believed he was doing the right thing at the time. I got a wishy-washy guy that was only doing it because he can’t let go. Not even because its his job. Even his suicide was kind of like “Meh,” as in you don’t really get why he’s doing it – though it was surprisingly graphic how they show him hit his back on a concrete divider and you hear it snap.
Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, and Samantha Barks as Marius, Cosette, and Eponine
Two of them are bona-fide musical theater actors, and one was in Mamma Mia! So ok, they’re ok at acting at least… and I was never terribly attached to the originals. I thought Lea Salonga did waaaaaay better as Eponine, and later Fantine, in the dream cast/25th anniversary casts, but I was decently impressed with Samantha Barks opposite Nick Jonas. And believe me, the fact that “Nick Jonas” and “impressed” are in the same sentence means something.
HOWEVER. “On My Own” is like, EVERY girl’s audition song if it isn’t “I Dreamed a Dream” and while she did it SO WELL every other time I’ve heard her, I felt like she lacked some angst. This whole damn play is about angst. And oppression. And I didn’t quite feel oppressed. Also, girlfriend has a TINY waist. I know she’s probably in a corset, but come on.
That being said, I did cry during “A Little Fall of Rain,” so they weren’t that bad together. In fact, I almost felt it. That time, anyway.
Amanda Seyfried is one of those actresses I want to like. She’s pretty, can act, and can sing – as long as the songs are in her range. She got screechy and sharp sometimes, and it’s clear that Cosette needs to be a true soprano…which Amanda might need some work on. I also did not realize how short she was. I suppose there isn’t a huge market for actresses that can sing and look like porcelain dolls at the same time.
Eddie Redmayne has those high cheekbones and a marvelous voice. But he needs to lay off the chin-quivering vibrato. Seriously. Enter him as a new heartthrob though, because he looked good in his whole “I’m a rich kid that is rebelling against the monarchy” getup. Of actual performers, I really did think he was quite good, with a very powerful voice.
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was a nice surprise, because I had no idea he was an actual Broadway actor. In fact, I saw him in the trailer and go “Hm, I know that face from somewhere.” And after a longer clip of him in the movie, I gasped. He’s Tripp Archibald from Gossip Girl!!!!!! Oh yes. I was shocked. Hilaaaaaaariously, but also quite impressed. From sleazy politician to revolutionary. Sign me up.
I also recognized the singing of Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop, and I knew he was involved, but I forgot about it. It’s nice to see he’s still kicking around, 30 years later. Would have been nice to get Patti LuPone, Roger Allam, and really point out Frances Ruffele…kind of in homage and similar to what they did with RENT.
They cut out a bunch of lyrics, and rearranged some of the songs, but the did the Act I to Act II break really well. And the cinematography was very interesting. It’s funny because lot of things you can do on stage, you just can’t do with film – like the duets on the stage when they’re supposed to be in two different places. There are a lot of choppy camera cuts to achieve this, but you get the general impression. Likewise, there’s a lot that has to be inherently understood on the stage, and therefore there was a LOT less explaining for me to do when PJ kept asking “why this? Who’s that? Where are they going? Is he dead?” It’s worth seeing for everyone that’s ever loved or seen the play, and I will probably go see it again. Because yes, I do hear the people sing.