Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Les Miserables - No one said this life (or this movie) would be a happy one

I just got home from seeing Les Miserables with my dear, sweet mother.  We balanced a fine line of what we know and what we experienced.  I'll explain.  We knew ahead of time that the film was not going to be perfect.  We knew that there were a few people singing above their natural octaves.  We knew that some of the shots were going to be way too tight.  We knew there would be vibrato.  But we also knew that this was the first time a director chose to have his actors sing live and not lip-synch songs that were pre-recorded.  We also knew that no matter what, we love Anne Hathaway

I so wanted to love the film as much as I've loved the stage musical, but it was not meant to be.  I liked it a lot.  I wept with the rest of my theater (no exaggeration-you could hear folks sobbing at the end of the film) and there were things I really loved about the film.  But there were things I didn't love at all.  One of those things was the frustration that came with knowing some of the actors could sing better than what I was hearing.  I know Amanda Seyfried doesn't always sound like a chipmunk.  I know that Hugh Jackman can sing differently. I know that movie newcomer, Samantha Barks was very good but I also know that no one can compare to Lea Salonga when it comes to "Eponine."

What I didn't know was that I was going to enjoy Russell Crowe's singing voice.  I didn't know that Gossip Girl's Aaron Tveit had my favorite singing voice in the entire cast.  I also didn't know that I could form an entirely different emotion to material I know so well.  I've seen Les Mis on stage three times.  I own two different cast recordings.  I love this musical and I've always been very attached to it.  This was the first time I got to see the story acted.  When you're experiencing a story from singers who can act on a stage, there's a bit of a detachment.  You can't really see their faces unless you're in the first few rows.  Their job is to project emotion through voice only.  But when seeing a story on film, with actors who can sing, well it's a totally different experience.  They have to not only sing that emotion but they get to express it through their facial expressions.  There was true, raw emotion from most of the cast but most especially Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne who put his heart on his sleeve.  Some folks, ahem...Russell Crowe, didn't quite capture that emotion (he should have been much more menacing).

So yeah, overall I liked it.  I'm a sucker for redemption stories.  It's such a downer of a story with lots of death and pain but there's hope and I love me some hope.  As for the style of the film itself, some of the sweeping camera was interesting and well-used and some of was not. Some of the tight shots on faces were great and some were not. I respect director Tom Hooper for doing this kind of production but a lot of it just didn't quite work out.  I knew I would have a problem with a lot of the singing voices but I really can't imagine other actors in these roles. 

I will leave you with part of my incredibly earnest post-movie discussion with my mother:

Mom: “If you could harness all that vibrato, what could you do with it?  Could you power a city?”   
Me: “Well…at least a train” 

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