Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Which I Review Les Misérables...

...And probably cement my status as a Mean Old Biddy.

Last week, I went to see both Les Misérables and The Hobbit.  I've been meaning and wanting to see them since they came out in December but my severe upper respiratory infection had other ideas. So I know these reviews are very late but I'm posting them anyway. And I will include spoilers so please consider yourselves warned.

Today, I offer you my thoughts on Les Misérables...

At the risk of having rotten vegetables thrown at me, I didn't swoon over Hugh Jackman's performance. I'm dismayed that he won a Golden Globe and really hope he doesn't win an Oscar (but I'm pretty sure it'll go to Daniel Day Lewis anyway). I didn't hate Hugh's performance— I really didn't— but neither did it really move me. Jean Valjean has some big sweeping emotional songs and I thought Hugh was competent but not swoon-worthy. Give me Colm Wilkinson (who, coincidentaly played the part of the Bishop in the film) or Gary Morris anyday. Here's a clip of Colm Wilkinson brilliantly singing "Bring Him Home":



Anne Hathaway was swoon-worthy. (Side note: when I say 'swoon-worthy' here, I don't mean in a Stephen Amell with his shirt off kind of way. I mean in a punch-you-in-the-gut emotional kind of way. I want to be swept away in the song. I want to be awash in emotion. And if an artist can so move me, then it is swoon-worthy.) Her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" actually elicited tears from me. Lovely. And I shall worship at the alter of the divine Samantha Barks (Eponine) for all of eternity. Eponine has long been my favorite Les Mis character and performing that role is one of my secret life goals (well, not so secret now, I guess). Samantha Barks was glorious.



Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were great as the Thénardiers. "Master of the House" is such a fun song and I love to sing it, as everyone in the theater found out. I was sad that "Dog Eat Dog" was cut from the movie. Speaking of cut songs, I was dismayed to find that "Turning" had not been included in its entirety. That is such a pretty song and I wish it all had been included. And not just because I was still singing it when the movie had moved on to the next scene. Amanda Seyfried was fine as Cosette. Didn't really care one way or another because after "Castle In A Cloud", I kind of lose interest in the Cosette character. Not her fault. She was written that way. Marius was fine. Nice, I guess. His song "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" is one of my favorites and I thought he performed it well but I found his hair to be very distracting. I was especially impressed by how well his hair gel held up. Don't get me wrong... you're involved in the battle at the barricade, you're gonna want something with hold. (Name! That! Reference!

The kid who played Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone) was freaking adorable and awesome and I even though I knew it was coming, I got emotional when he died. Bravo, little Gavroche, you're the top of the class.

"One Day More" was brilliant except for one thing (more on that in a minute) and "Do You Hear The People Sing" made me actually want to jump up and down with excitement.

And then there was Javert (Russell Crowe). Javert did not make me want to jump up and down with excitement. Quite the opposite. At the risk of him tracking me down and beating the hell out of me, I did not enjoy Russell Crowe's performance. From the the very first note that escaped from his throat, I knew I wasn't going to like it. Maybe I've been spoiled by my beloved Broadway recordings that I've been listening to for longer than I care to admit, but I don't think he had the voice needed for this role. Javert's songs— in particular "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide"— are so freaking powerful and solid and need someone with a powerful, commanding voice to deliver them. Like so:



And Russell Crowe's voice was far too thin and weak. Please don't track me down and kick my ass, Russell. I think if it was a non-musical version of Les Mis, you'd be a great choice for Javert. You just kind of suck in the musical version. And by 'kind of', I mean 'a lot'.

So, overall, I liked the film but I did not love it. The miscasting of Russell Crowe has just really gotten under my skin. I didn't buy the soundtrack (Seriously, how do you NOT include "Do You Hear The People Sing" on a Les Mis highlights album??) and I won't be buying the movie when that's released on DVD.

That's gonna do it for me today. Be sure to tune in next time to find out if I'll be this cranky about The Hobbit...

53 comments:

  1. I don't think I'll hit Les Mis - I'm not that big on serious musicals, so this might bore me a little bit. Thanks for the review :)

    Jamie

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    1. The girl who saw the movie with me was completely unfamiliar with the musical. I'm pretty sure I traumatized her.

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  2. I loved the stage play and say Colm Wilkinson way back in 1993 here in Chicago as Javert along with Lea Salonga as Eponine.

    Cosette is just fluff for me. Hugo wrote her that way. She is Marius' ideal because she is so witless and helpless, just like a woman is supposed to be. Hugo killed off Eponine because she was smart and more than equal to any man. Marius being a typical boy was incapable of loving her or appreciating her the way she deserved. Redmayne is too milquetoast Brit to really be Marius, though. I was shocked that he was cast.

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    1. Maybe he gets a pass because he was better than Russell Crowe. Only, who wasn't?

      It would've been AMAZING to see Colm and Lea on stage. Ah-mazing.

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  3. I liked the movie, but I hated Crowe. I mean, I hated him. I don't think he'd be fine in a non-musical version. His acting was completely flat along with his singing.

    I thought Jackman was good. He made for the weakness in his singing by filling it with emotion, which was great. I liked that. See, that was the problem with Crowe, completely no emotion.

    Hathaway was incredible as was Barks. "On My Own" might be my favorite song in the movie, but, then, so might be "Master of the House."

    Seyfried didn't do anything for me. She didn't bring anything to it than being a pretty face, which, I suppose, is what they wanted, so she did that adequately.

    I just have to say it again, Crowe was horrible. It is a testament to how good the other performers were that the movie is so good, because his was the kind of performance that can completely ruin a production.

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    1. Good, so it wasn't just me. I mean, he's singing a song building up to his suicide and there was just nothing there. Just... Blah!

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  4. I've been on the fence about watching this. I'll wait for it to come out on DVD, or cable.

    ......dhole

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    1. Despite my disappointment with certain casting choices, I am glad I saw it on a big screen.

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  5. I'm like Donna, I think I'll wait until it comes out on DVD or until I can stream it in high quality. Bummer about Crowe. I'd been skeptical about Anne Hathaway's performance, but happy to hear she stepped up to the plate and hit hard. Looking forward to your review of the Hobbit, hope you'll be in a chipper mood as opposed to cranky. (:

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    1. I hope so too. Maybe I should delay it until then. =)

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  6. My wife is a big fan of French lit but highly skeptical of musicals. As such, I doubt we'll be seeing this one. I am grateful for your review.

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    1. A quality stage production would be good. As long as Russell Crowe isn't in it.

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  7. I will eventually see it on NetFlix, but I've seen the original stage production in London (many years ago) and just don't think the movie could live up to that incredible experience.

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    1. I saw it in New York and it was incredible.

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  8. I do want to see this. I'm keeping my expectations reasonable so I won't end up disappointed, but in the past taking a musical of this caliber and trying to put it into a movie just doesn't work (Phantom of the Opera, anyone?)

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    1. Ugh. I didn't even make it through Phantom of the Opera.

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  9. Thanks for the review. I was torn anyway, so now I'll probably just skip it or wait until it's on DVD.

    Now I have to go see if I still have my Broadway soundtrack from a million years ago...

    Oh, and now I have "Master of the House" playing in my head. All I can think of is that old "Seinfeld" episode... :)

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    1. I've had "Master of the House" stuck in my head for days now. That and most of the rest of the musical.

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  10. I would have loved to say I dream of performing in Les Mis, but sadly, I know I'll never be able to.

    My voice just wouldn't work in it. :-D

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    1. P.S. Sorry for not commenting on the movie, but it's yet to be released in South Africa. :-(

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    2. There's every possibility that my voice will no longer work in it either. But a girl can pretend. And I do. Frequently. =)

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  11. so i was right, russel crowe is not a singer...still cant wait to rent it =) thanks for your review!

    and i bet you liked the hobbit as much as i did! all but the draggy, back story beginning was fabulous!

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    1. Doesn't Russell Crowe sing in a band? Maybe his voice is better suited for rock music. I can sing Broadway and some opera but I can't sing popular music to save my life.

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  12. I'm waiting for this one to come out on DVD. I loved seeing the musical, so I do want to see the film, but I can wait. :)

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    1. I hadn't originally planned on seeing it in the theater but as the release date got closer, my resolve crumbled.

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  13. I loved Les Mis, but I totally agree it could've been better such as less singing, more dialogue. I was so immersed in the music, so I forgot to concentrate on the wonderful story.

    Yes, I'm a Les Mis fan by seeing a movie only ONCE and listening to the movie soundtrack a million times but I'm dying to see it on stage. Anyone want to take me to England?

    Anne Hathaway definitely deserves the awards she receives. Her performance when she sings "I Dreamed a Dream" is so full of emotion and heart. It tugs on your heartstrings.

    Les Mis made me feel good, but it also made me buy the eBook by Victor Hugo (in which I still have to read). Can't wait to see it again! Probably the next time I'll be singing along ;)

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    1. I read the unabridged novel back in high school. In English and then in French because I am a huge dork.

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  14. I'm ready to to dodge and weave, here, because, I have never seen nor read Les Miserables. I've heard some snatches of maybe two or three songs, but the whole review is lost on me.

    Bring on the Hobbit!! That, I will have opinions on. Strong opinions!

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    1. I figured the review would be lost on a lot of people. I'm pleasantly surprised by the comment turn out today.

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  15. There are times I would dearly love to play Madame Thenardier in Les Mis

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    1. That role would be a lot of fun. Maybe we should stage a family production of Les Mis...

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  16. The reviews I've read were similar to yours. Entertainment Weekly gave it a C.

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    1. Oooh! Now I can go back and read that review. I skipped it when it first came out. Thanks for the reminder!

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  17. Well, I'm glad you got to see it. My wife wanted to see it pretty badly then for some reason when it came out she wasn't that interested. I didn't want to jinx my good fortune by asking why so it's forever a mystery.

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    1. Maybe your wife saw a clip of Russell Crowe singing...

      I originally was going to see it by myself because I knew my significant other had absolutely no desire to see it. Then, at the last minute, a friend tagged along. I'm sure she was impressed by my singing.

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  18. I agree with pretty much everything to have to say, which is funny, because I absolutely loved this movie, haha.

    Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway *traded* vocal integrity for acting. If this were a broadway production, their performances would have been counted as terrible, in my opinion, because there would be no camera to zoom in on their faces and pick up the nuances that really made the character zing.

    Russell Crowe just seemed totally overwhelmed by having to sing and act. He was so busy *trying* to sing that he forgot to act, whereas Hugh Jackman should have just taken him under his wing and said, "Dude, just forget how it sounds and start crying. They'll love it."

    The video you included of Javert singing brought me to tears. I was brought up with the stage performance as well. I would say though, that having a singer this amazing would totally kill the movie, because *watching* this guy is as boring as all heck, especially when the camera is on a close-up. He's too busy singing perfectly. So, I guess I accepted most of the performances as a balance. Good singing had to take a bow to good acting.

    Except for poor Russell. He just seemed so uncomfortable the whole time.

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    1. "Dude, just forget how it sounds and start crying. They'll love it." <--- I love this.

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  19. Yes, Yes, Yes! I literally pointed at the screen and said out loud, "that's Colm Wilkinson" when I saw him walk out the door. Of course, I was immediately covered with chill bumps at the first note that escaped his mouth.

    Couldn't believe the whole theme of "turning" was dropped in the film. Seriously ridiculous.
    This is the only time I've ever liked the character of Gavroche, Marius is annoying, Cosette- meh, Enjolras is the true hottie hero (always) and I will fight you to play Eponine!!!

    Javert... oh my... I will forever love Terrence Mann as Javert and noone else. This was the biggest disappointment of the movie. The suicide scene was too graphic and lost the trailing note at the end of Stars.

    The second biggest was Hugh Jackman's singing for Valjean. He's an amazing actor, but the nasality was killing me.

    Thank you for allowing my to just put this all out here. i really needed to debrief with someone like minded. :)

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    1. I'm pleased to know there's other like minded people out there. =)

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  20. I haven't even seen the movie yet, but ditto to everything you said about Eponine. I loved her in the 25th anniv. show and was so excited that she got the movie role. It also would have been amazing if Ramin Karimloo got Enjolras.

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    1. I keep imagining the horror I would've felt had Taylor Swift actually be awarded the role of Eponine. It keeps me up at nights...

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  21. WHAT?! Do you hear the people sing isn't on the album? How on earth did they let that go by?!

    Um, we have a bit of a problem here. It seems there now be two of us who have the dream job of singing Epoine. (Though I do feel the need to mention I can't carry a note to save my life.)

    Marius' hair gel cracked me up. I need some of that in the wind around here. Keep my hair in place! Now I want to go and pat it down to see if I can get it to move. I wonder if he'd let me...

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    1. We can share the role, alternate performances and the like. =)

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    2. Agreed. Take time to recover after the dying.

      You read it in French. I don't think I've ever met anyone who has ever read it in French, except maybe the French. That is cool on so many levels.

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    3. And here I was going with 'nerdy'...

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  22. I agree with most of your review - Samantha and Anne definitely stole the show for me - except unlike everyone else I know, I didn't hate Crowe's performance. I actually thought he did a pretty good job, and was surprised by that. Yes, he's not Broadway . . . but he did better than I expected. Hugh . . .totally let me down. I knew he had stage experience, and other than his last song, I didn't dig his singing performance that much, and I'm a huge Hugh fan otherwise. Sigh.

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    1. I don't know what I was expecting from Russell's performance but I just couldn't deal with his singing. His voice was just so thin.

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  23. I wasn't blown away by Les Mis either. I enjoyed Hugh Jackman, but tend to agree with you that he wasn't completely amazing. Anne Hathaway was brilliant, as was Eponine.

    I didn't hate on Russell Crowe as much as a lot of other people did. But I felt like they didn't do enough to flesh out his character. I never really got the sense that Javert had been hunting for Valjean for 17 years.

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    1. You definitely don't get that sense.

      I'm loving how everyone is loving Eponine!

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  24. Russell honestly couldn't kick your ass. He's too fat.

    I do intend to see this film. Your review just makes me want to get going on it a little more. I too have a cold, although it seems to be subsiding today. Thanks for this great and honest review of one of last year's top films.

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    1. I had to wait for the cold to clear out enough so it wouldn't hamper my singing abilities. I wasn't about to go to a showing of Les Mis and not sing along with it. There are just some levels of crazy even I'm not willing to hit.

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  25. I must be the last person who has yet toe see or read this story in any way shape or form. I have no idea what the heck its about. Somebody help me!

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    1. You're not the last person. My significant other is right there with you. He's heard me sing the songs a lot but I'm sure he doesn't know from where they come.

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