Les Miserables – Classic, Modern, Wonderful… And Poised To Revolutionize The Movie Musical

Yes, I was supposed to start the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame project today… but last night I went to a screening of Les Miserables and it needed to be discussed.

When writers or directors take a play or musical from the stage to the screen, they almost always talk about “opening it up.”  The world of the stage, while full and wonderful, is also limiting.  The screen… and especially a large budget, allows you locations and elements not possible in a theatre.  There are things we can be shown that we have only imagined… subtleties and nuances… and while the screen is flat, the universe of the story becomes very three-dimensional.

That is what the brilliant director Tom Hopper has done… and in an astounding and wonderful way.  The pressure to adapt a classic and storied piece of literature and a most beloved staple of musical theatre must have been immense, but Hooper has such an amazing sense of how things go.  His camera work is simple and classical, as is his sense of story telling… yet all are filled with a magic and heightened reality that is remarkable.  He uses modern elements in the best possible way, and nothing seems put on or out-of-place.

But… the main and essential element he uses to “open up” the world of the play is the live singing. THIS is what will hopefully change many movie musicals for years to come.  Not all will work this way, but the power of seeing the characters in Les Miz allow such raw and deep emotion, and the absolute reality of the moment to carry their notes and songs was moving beyond words… Pun intended…

One does not need dialogue with a story as rich as this.  The visuals alone can lead us on a most wonderful and remarkable journey… But the songs… those stunning, iconic, we know every word by heart songs, spring to life.  I was near tears on so many occasions… and having the audience clap after almost each number made me smile.  I want to see it again, just to watch some of those songs and the performances behind them.

Hugh Jackman is a treasure, and while I will NEVER be able to get the absolutely gorgeous and role-defining voice of Colm Wilkinson out of my ears and brain (and yes, he has a great cameo), Jackman is a phenomenal actor who carries the role so well… much like the load Valjean himself carries.

Anne Hathaway just makes me fall more and more in love with her… “I Dreamed A Dream” was riveting and resulted in applause and whistles… at a movie!  If she does win the Oscar, this is the scene that will do it… much like Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in Dreamgirls!

And hearing her speak at the Q&A reveals a deep intelligence, extensive cinematic knowledge and a delightful sense of humor.  Sigh.  The training she had to do, physically and vocally, in order to sing these difficult songs and yet maintain the stillness film requires… especially in the close ups… utterly mind blowing.

Eddie Redmayne was fantastic as Maurius… I loved him in My Week With Marilynand I love the story that Jackman told about how the guys playing the other students were all Marius at various times in West End productions of Les Miz… and two of them were currently playing Marius in the West End production… and so they would all come to set with their arms crossed like… “why you”?  Not really… but apparently even with that potential for jealousy, they broke out in applause after Eddie’s numbers.

Imagine singing those songs not only live and with that emotion… but take after take after take.

Aaron Tveit, so brilliant in Next To Normal (You must listen to this amazing recording… LOVE IT!!!) is a movie star in the making… His Enjolras will move you.

Amanda Seyfried is quite nice as Cosette… which can be a thankless role…

You knew about most of them going in… so the surprises and standouts for me…

Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche… Wow!  Samantha Barks blew me away as Eponine!  Another one to watch and fall in love with…

And of course, Russell Crowe, though not for the right reason, sadly.  He is a fantastic actor, but his voice is weak and comes across as flat and one dimensional here.  It is really too bad and the only miss in a relatively perfect film…

I am not sure who could have done it, but an unknown might have been a better choice… for it is so essential to have a deep, rich bass-baritone in Javert to serve as a musical contrast to the tenor of Valjean.  You definitely miss the vocal chops in “Stars” and “Javert’s Suicide”  and it does take you out of the moment… which for me was a real shame.  Still moving, but oh what might have been…

Moving beyond that, everything else works… and at this point, this is my favorite movie of the year…

I have many more to see, but so far…

1)  Les Miz

2)  Argo

3)  Moonrise Kingdom

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1 Comment

Filed under Life... Plain and Not So Simple, Marc's Mixed Bag - A Little Of Everything, Marc's Playlist - Music That Moves Me, One Thumb - My Movie Reviews

One response to “Les Miserables – Classic, Modern, Wonderful… And Poised To Revolutionize The Movie Musical

  1. trh

    Very excited to see this! Nice review, my friend. TR

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