Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Les Misérables 2012 Movie

Starring:
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Samantha Barks as Eponine

Synopsis (from the official Les Mis website):
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Ex-convict Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

First things first, this version of Les Misérables is an adaptation of the musical production created by Cameron Mackintosh and it was based on Victor Hugo's novel. This was probably created for fans of the musical, old and new (though some musical purists have already started attacking the cast's singing before the movie even premiered).

Why the disclaimer? Well, I've heard bored people complain that the singing wouldn't stop and it was kinda disturbing to hear a few of them getting restless behind me. I would like to make a suggestion to the movie goers out there who are interested in the novel but cringe at the thought of having to plough through Victor Hugo's highly descriptive wordings. I know many of us have become very busy and probably only high schoolers would have the time to immerse themselves in Hugo's dark, tragic world. (I read Les Misérables when I was in high school and I can't bring myself to re-read it again now.)

So...my suggestion to people who hated the singing is to try and find a copy of Les Miserables 1998, starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman. (Ah. You joked about Catwoman getting rescued by Wolverine, who was being chased by the Gladiator, did you? Well, Ra's al Ghul, the guy who trained Batman, was in Les Misérables, too.)

This version has no singing. And it was given a high rating by Rotten Tomatoes.

Ok, going back to the 2012 movie, I didn't expect much in terms of vocal prowess, since a film director's job is to bring it into an entirely different medium.  For me, it will forever be Lea Salonga as Eponine AND Fantine. (When I first listened to the original London soundtrack, Eponine was Frances Ruffelle and Fantine was Patti LuPone.) In my heart, Colm Wilkinson will forever be Jean Valjean.

EDIT NOTE (01/20/2013): OMG. I only realized now that the bishop in this movie was Colm Wilkinson! I found out when I saw this video on YouTube, where Wilkinson told Hugh Jackman that he did so many things that were not written, that he made Jean Valjean his own, and that it was time for Hugh Jackman to make  Valjean his own. Love how he and Jackman sang, "God it's high, bring it down!" /END EDIT


Anne Hathaway, however, just totally stunned me. And later made me bawl my eyes out so hard that it was actually a little embarrassing already.  She didn't sing with the power of a mezzo soprano but sang with the devastating pain of a broken woman.

I must also mention Samantha Barks, who played Eponine. I recognize her from the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary and has become one of my favorite Eponines. Well, unlike the original London (and original Broadway) Eponine, she didn't make my ears bleed.

I'd also like to applaud Hugh Jackman for the gripping portrayal of Jean Valjean, though I would feel sorry for him whenever he had to sustain some pretty high notes. Ditto with Russell Crowe, who played the antagonist Javert.  "Stars" (sung by Javert) and "Bring Him Home" (sung by Jean Valjean) were two of my absolute favorite tracks and I felt like...hm. I didn't realize that Javert's baritone was that difficult.

I was a little disappointed by Amanda Seyfried's performance, though. I was very excited to see her play Cosette. She looked the part and I loved her voice in Mamma Mia. She also has a background in opera and Broadway. Unfortunately, she kind of drowned in there. Vocally speaking, that is.

They shortened some of my other favorites, like "Castle on a Cloud" (sung by little Cosette) and "Little People" (sung by Gavroche) but I think it was all for keeping the movie's length reasonable. They had to include some new songs, probably for the sake of winning an award. It's all good.

Many non-musical fans would probably argue that Les Misérables 2012 is overhyped and overrated, but anyone who can appreciate the effort it took to translate this from theater to the big screen would disagree. The execution was beautiful. The hype and the rating, for me, was well-deserved.



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