So I’ve allowed myself a little time to simmer down after I saw this movie Wednesday night with my musical fanatic family. To say the least, never before have I been so pleased with an adaptation of a musical theatre production to film.
Starting with the essentials: I avoided reviews like crazy prior to seeing the film, now lightly surfing the web I find many viewers to be quite unsatisfied with Hugh Jackman as Valjean. I was confused by this reaction because I thought he was absolutely superb. Sure, his voice might have been a little too rah-rah for some of the intentionally understated power solos that were so mastered originally by Colm Wilkinson. However, he voice had character, I prefer that to some other cases of the film. Music set aside (which is extremely difficult for me to do), I thought he captured the role incredibly well and I don’t think I could have found someone to be quite as successful with such a difficult task.
The other side of the coin here is Russell Crowe. With essentially an opposite background, Crowe fell a little flat for me. I am extremely aware of his insane acting abilities that I understood and even appreciated this new interpretation of Javert. However, when I saw the show both times on Broadway, Javert’s bass/baritone voice was so rich and I found myself longing for the depth and devotion that Crowe definitely lacked. He was the worst part of the movie experience, but as you are about to see, if that’s the worst part, this film was pretty incredible.
The ladies: Anne Hathaway – very low expectations, I really only assumed they cast her to draw in tickets, a method I’m sure was very effective, but I didn’t even consider the amazing possibilities of her performance. I Dreamed a Dream, a song I’ve heard a million times before shook me to the very core. And to be a film major for just a minute, that entire song was in ONE SHOT. There were no cuts to complicate the scene, it purely relied on the talent of the actors, and in this case, it was wonderfully successful.
Amanda Seyfried – Cosette is an easy role, let’s be honest. To quote my sister, all you need for the role of Cosette is a killer super soprano vibrato and a pair of bright eyes. This role I believe was perfectly cast by Amanda Seyfried. The airy tone of her voice is not my favorite, but it definitely works for the innocence of the role. She exists purely as a counter-part for both Valjean and Marius, a duty that was definitely fulfilled.
Samantha Barks – Eponine is the role I was meant to play on Broadway if I ever had any business in musical theatre – HA. She’s always been my favorite character of both the story and the music and I was relieved to find that this was yet another perfect casting call. On My Own was in mostly one shot as well. Brilliant.
The men: Eddie Redmayne, I’ll refrain from obsessing over his attractiveness as I’ve already driven my family crazy with that behavior. Good looks set aside (another difficult thing for me to do), I was extremely impressed byRedmayne’s performance. He was the cute and innocent love struck boy-man in My Week With Marilyn. Les Miserables casts him as this same character, but he must be a killer tenor. Well, surprise, surprise, who’s insane falcetto comes out of absolutely nowhere and breaks my heart during Empty Chairs and Empty Tables? Damn. His acting was superb – he gave Marius a story – a depth that one wouldn’t see in the role otherwise.
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, oh my God.
Everyone else: Brilliant, just brilliant.
The movie in general: After countless disappointments in the theatre this year, I really needed something to prove me wrong. Everything was overzealous and exhausting to watch, with flashy angles and super vibrant color schemes throughout every scene. The constant stimulation that is required by today’s audience could not be more apparent on today’s silver screen. A black and white film of folks talking around a table would never fly in 2012, and for me, that’s pretty tragic.
The film was shot classically and simply. I argued with myself as to what I liked more: the solos of one shot that merely relied on the talented actors or the ensemble tunes that could have been so chinsy in their execution. I left the film feeling proud of everything I just experienced, the cast, the camera, the music, the story. My childhood love for the show was instantly rejuvenated.
What was obvious to me was the production’s goal to please the theatre fans. There were countless shots and tidbits that paid homage to the theatre production, both through the set and iconic imagery, such as the death of Enjolras and the very presence of Colm Wilkinson to introduce and conclude the film.
The movie reminded us of the dark beautiful magic of the stage and why we fell in love with the story in the first place. I give this one ten billion stars.