Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Les Misérables - My Review

Finally had a chance to take my wife to a matinee showing yesterday on the federal holiday. It was good. I admit I can enjoy a musical. Those who aren't so inclined can skip this posting. It was a good adaption of musical theater.

It even inspired me to man the barricades at Costco in defense of the People's Constitution!

I had a talk with my wife afterwards, idealist that I am, explaining that I would never be good in a war or revolution. In the first place, it would have to be for a noble cause which are few and far between even if most people can fool themselves into one fairly easily. But once in a noble cause, I would be the guy up there on the barricade when all was lost just so I could die for the cause. Otherwise, war is just a long, boring, bureaucratic tedium of squalor with love and glory generally far beyond a dream. (See, Esmé)

I don't suppose there is any point in worrying about spoilers this late in the game, so I'll dive right in. Anne Hathaway stole the show. She even convinced us she could sing - not so much by the singing but the acting like she could even in the depths of the most squalid depravity. (There was a lot of depraved squalor in this movie.) Her descent into an earthly and undeserved hell and death was riveting and powerful more than simply emotional.

Hugh Jackman can act too. And sing pretty well - perfectly adequate with his depth of feeling and more natural style in this film. But what was with Russell Crowe? Not only can he not sing, but it looked like he was acting in a different movie and just wandered onto this set. Where was the passion for Javert's self-righteous cruelty of justice? I sure didn't see it. Although I have to admit, my first teary eyes came when Javert gave the medal on his chest to the dead little boy from the barricades. But that was for the boy. (I'm going to have to check the book on that one too.)

My wife noted and I agree that we had those main stars for the marquee but the young voices on the barricades and in the streets were great singers. She knew she recognized the Marius actor from somewhere but couldn't quite place him. I checked IMDB and found he had been "Angel Claire" in a recent "Tess of the D'ubervilles" we saw on Netflix. So maybe he's a bit typecast now. And the sweet object of his love interest, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) was good. (Although I think I liked the young Cosette (Isabel Allen) better. Let's hope she never needs rehab.)

The most impressive parts of the movie were the magnitude of it contrasted with the intimate rawness of tragedy and emotion in the characters (except for Crowe's failed Javert). Although the most spectacular scene was the opening with the convicts pulling that huge ship into dry dock.

Best of all was how the religious aspects were so powerfully sincere. Jackman transformed himself and Jean Valjean's soul right there in front of the camera from the influence of the very credibly sincere Bishop. My wife noted that the man playing the Bishop, Colm Wilkinson, had played Valjean on stage. He also appears to have been an Andrew-Lloyd-Weber star, including the original Ché in the first Evita album (1976) and once sang "Happy Birthday" with President Obama to Ted Kennedy (2009)! It doesn't get any more sincere than that.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter attempted to steal the show along with everything else and were pretty good depraved at it. Samantha Barks as Éponine was a heart-breaker. She hasn't done a lot of acting at 22, but has played Éponine on the London stage. She should have a bright future ahead.

It may not be the greatest film musical of all time (toss-up between Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz for me), but it was powerful, and certainly the grittiest I've seen.

And Valjean's death scene was sincerely spiritual. And it seemed so natural to see Fantine as the angel and the spirit of Valjean walking out to meet the Bishop and then all the people at the huge barricade of humanity.
They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord
They will walk behind the plough-share
They will put away the sword
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Yeah, that's a cause I'm afraid I could get behind and even die for.

1 comment:

  1. I also loved the movie - and Anne Hathaway's performance was stunning.

    I actually was OK with Russell Crowe's portrayal of Javert. I didn't love it, but his singing was mediocre (not really bad), and he obviously was going for unyielding, unfeeling iciness. I thought he accomplished that, and, really, his character in the book was perhaps the most static from beginning to almost the end. He had to maintain one constant, unemotional character portrayal as everyone around him evolved and got to express deep emotion (and were much better natural singers, to boot) - and that's not an enviable task.


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