Monday, January 7, 2013

Les Misérables - 4.5/5 stars


Let me begin by saying that i'm a huge Les Misérables fan! I remember when i was a just a boy my parents saw in the paper that the broadway play was coming to Capitol Theater in SLC. They had all of us kids get up early on saturday morning and stand in the Smiths Tix line the day the tickets went on sale. Times have changed but i have loved the play ever since. And i've seen it many many times.

I, like most fans, was hesitant about some of the casting choices at first. I always pictured Jean Valjean to be a heavier set man. But once i saw the first trailer, i knew that i was sold on Anne Hathaway. Now having seen the movie twice i still have a few reservations but was blown away by others.

I LOVED the younger cast. Eddie Redmayne (Marius) was so excellent. He gave his whole heart and sole in his performance. Anne Hathaway (Fantine) brought a new life for me to that character. You truly got a sense of how destroyed she was.

Russell Crowe had to grow on me. I was more bugged by his take on Javert the first viewing but felt better about it the second time. Although the last half of "stars" just still isn't a great job. Sorry Russell, i'm a huge fan but it needed work. People are loving Hugh Jackman but i just thought he was okay. Very good at times, lacking at others. His voice always sounded strained to me. The big song "Bring him home" was not all that great. He didn't bring the sensitivity to it that the stage version had. And in this case i wish it was dubbed over so as to get it just right.

Which brings me to the point this being their actual voices...live. No dubbing over. While this seemed to be a selling point to the movie before it was released, i think i've decided i'm not a fan. This in fact is probably the directing choice that most fans will have to adjust to the most. We are used to hearing these songs with great pronunciation, clarity, strength and power. The movie with live singing loses a lot of that but gains a sort of reality that the stage musical lacks. But "at the end of the day" i think i'd be happier if the movie was dubbed over.

Lets talk about the cinematography, set design and style of this film. Superb! I loved Tom Hoopers directing style in this. He has many extreme closeups of the actors which really shows their anguish and just how miserable they are. Plus many of the takes are the songs entire length without cutting. Wow! That must be so difficult as an actor to pull off. The film just looks like how you'd imagine it should. Grungy, dirty and depressed.

Regardless of the execution of this film version the story is what will always drive Les Misérables. Dreams, Hope, Redemption, Forgiveness, Mercy, Love and brotherhood are just some of the themes addressed. I've always said you don't have to be a fan of musicals to love Les Misérables. I feel like it breaks the mold of typical musicals. It has so much heart and depth and meaning to the story and characters.

While there are things that i had to adjust to going from stage to movie, this was a very well done film. Not perfect with some things but definitely nailed it with others. I think i need to get one more viewing in before it leaves theaters. Meant to be viewed big and loud and with popcorn and tissue in hand.

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