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Finally saw Les Misèrables with G. on Thursday (his idea, and he ended up liking it better than I did, although the official version still is that I dragged him there...). Now the opening sequence... OMGholyhsitwow[openmouthedstare]wow. After that... well. It's Les Mis, so it's impossible for it to suck completely, but as a film it was bad. Really bad, for the most part. On stage no one expects realism, so a lack of it doesn't matter, but on a purely visual level the film was an awkward, constantly distracting mixture of too much and not enough realism that kept breaking the fourth wall, because it neither allowed you to lose yourself in the illusion of realism nor to dismiss it altogether and lose yourself in the play, and only ended up making the film rather kitschier than the much sparer stage productions usually are. (Case in point, the painfully fake butterfly on the iron fence during A Heart Full of Love suddenly opening its wings. I had to stop myself from giggling through the rest of the song after that.) And I can't remember what critic it was that complained about the endless, endless, unvarying close-up shots for every single song, every single time, but it was probably more than one, because that part is also painfully true.

The song written for Valjean's coach journey with Cosette is terrible and only adds to the too-saccharine overall tone of the film compared to the musical, and Dog Eat Dog should have been left in for the same reason, although I can see the reasons behind either decision.

(There's also the admittedly a bit weird thing about how English is actually my least favourite language for Les Mis. I like the French version and am quite partial to the German translation, but English lacks a certain... edge, maybe, that the musical needs? It sounds too soft to my ears to somehow to really fit the mood.)

As for the cast... Anne Hathaway deserved her Oscar, as far as I can tell, not having seen any of the other nominated films, her performance certainly stood out in the first part, both singing and acting-wise. A surprise for me personally was that it was Eddie Redmayne's Marius that I found most interesting/arresting in the second half, because Marius is usually such a thankless role that I never paid much attention to, what with all the mooning after Cosette and little else he does. This is maybe the first time I liked the character and I loved what Redmayne did with Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. That said, the fact that Marius of all characters stood out probably already says a lot about how the actual main characters were lacking. Russell Crowe was a disaster, you can't call it anything else. The singing was terrible throughout and the acting (what acting? for the most part it felt as if he was too busy to get the singing done) didn't make up for it at all. In the end, Les Mis is a musical and you can't play Javert if you can't convey a certain severity and force through your voice. The suicide scene wasn't too bad, but everything before was, and Stars especially was excruciatingly painfully boring. (Boring. Yes, really.) Hugh Jackman was technically better, although you also could hear how he was struggling with higher notes and passages that demanded more vocal power and there were parts that made me vince, but somehow I never really managed to connect to his Valjean either, although in this case I can't pinpoint the actual reason. Part of it was that for me it felt as if the character veered too much on the side of sweet-and-saintly, but I'm not sure if this is actually justified? The rest of the cast was ok, with Amanda Seyfried actually making me like Cosette (yet another thankless part) and Samantha Barks an interesting Eponine, although I have to say I found her visually arresting more than anything else. When has Helena Bonham-Carter played more than a variation of one single type of character, the last time though?

In conclusion...

oh, [sigh]. I was prepared to like this, damn it.

 

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
topaz_eyes
Mar. 24th, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
This was the one film I wanted to see in the theatres last year! Oh well, it's out on pay-per-view now, so I'll see it eventually. :-)

Valjean's a tough role to sing at any rate, at least for anyone who isn't Colm Wilkinson.
solitary_summer
Mar. 24th, 2013 05:07 pm (UTC)
I suppose it's especially hard having to do the singing and acting all at once when you're not a trained singer...

And the film doesn't really distract one enough when the singing is lacking, especially when it came to the solo parts, where you had very little to focus on other than the singer.
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