Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Les Miserables (The Movie)

Let me start by saying I love this story. I've read the book, seen the stage play, and now the movie. It's heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. I'm not going to try to do a compare/contrast sort of thing, because I have never felt that was fair to something that has been done in various forms. Print, stage, and film are three very different media, and what works in one, doesn't necessarily translate to another. So, things get left out, changed, compressed or expanded, to fit the medium. I'm going to talk about what I thought about the movie.

And actually, I thought it was quite good. The basic story lines were there, mostly intact. Some additional material was added, and some bits a tad better explained, while others were left to be figured out. The story held together well, and had strong emotional impact. I had tears in my eyes for a lot of the time we were there.

As for the cast, some were better than others. I don't know who told Hugh Jackman he could sing, but whoever it was, he should not have listened. Valjean is a tough role to sing, and Jackman sounded strained and out of his range (whatever that is) most of the time. I have to say, however, that I thought he played the role well, and the torment and anguish was all there. Russell Crowe, on the other hand, carried his role well. His voice was better suited to Javert, and it showed. The highlight for me was Samantha Barks. Her Eponine was wonderful. Not only is her voice lovely, but she put such emotion into the performance, it was a joy to listen to. Natalya Wallace was very convincing as the young Cosette. There was something unnerving about Eddie Redbayne's Marius that I can't quite put my finger on, but I wasn't fully into his role. And Helena Bonham Carter was, as always, wonderful!

The sets were nicely done, although I thought the "slum" areas could have been-- dirtier? Costumes were good, as well, particularly the Thenardier's- perfectly over the top.

A few things didn't fare so well with me. In the scene where Marius and Cosette meet at the garden gate, it is night, isn't it? So why were there butterflies flitting about. That bit of unrealism stuck out to me. And the worst- the cow. Now, I don't really know a lot about Herefords, but I'm not so sure there were any in 1800's France, especially in the middle of a Paris slum street. And if there was a cow there, I suspect it would be a milk cow, not a beef breed. It was in the scene where the people are tossing all sorts of furniture out the windows to be used to build the barricade and I can only think they were going for the humor aspect of having this one lone cow standing in the middle of all the flying furniture and mooing. But it was just so out of place and ludicrous, it popped me out of the story for a moment. There were nice touches, as well- the two coffins at the front of the barricade was a nice little bit of foreshadowing that I liked.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. Not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes at many points in the film (and not all were because of Hugh Jackman's singing! :) ). Is it worth seeing? Yes, especially if you are a fan of the story, or of big, romantic, tragic, and hopeful stories. And don't mind if that story is mostly told in song.

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