So, like the rest of the world, I went and saw Les Miserables on the big screen last week (Saturday, to be precise), with a good friend of mine. I’ve seen the show several times live, and think that Colm Wilkinson is the best Jean Valjean in existence. These are my biases going in.
Not going to recap plot, just give you some notes.
- I was blown away by Marius. BLOWN. AWAY. Wow. He did a fantastic, fantastic job. I hope he gets nominated for something come Oscar time. Wowzers.
- Samantha Barks was an excellent Eponine. The changing position of “On My Own” was a bit, um, weird for me, but she still did a great job with it. (In the show, “On My Own” is the first big number in the second act. Here, it’s right before “One Day More.”)
- Love Aaron Tveit, the actor who sang Enjoras. That’s a great supporting part, and he did a fantastic job with it. He’s a Broadway singer, so of course he should have done a great job. He delivered
- Anne Hathaway. Boom. Fantastic. Although, if one tried to cry on stage, like Anne cried during “I Dreamed A Dream”, you’d probably get notes from the director. You can’t cry onstage like that! But hey, this is Hollywood. She was still great. (The reason you can’t cry onstage like that: It will, usually, mess up your voice. If you’re really crying, then you can’t control your breath and the song will suffer. You can cry when you sing, but it just can’t be really cathartic crying.)
- Russell Crowe surprised me. I was expecting it to be really bad. Now, he didn’t sing it the way I would prefer Javert to be sung. He’s not the voice I’d normally perfer. But he made definitely valid artistic choices, and when we got to the suicide, it was very moving. He played him as a straight, almost no feelings, Old Testament guy. And it worked. (Oh my gosh, when he gave Gavroche the cross? So. Sad.)
- Hugh. Darling Hugh. I love you, sir, but not as Jean Valjean. Butchered “Bring HIm Home.” Butchered, I say. He just doesn’t have the voice for Valjean.
- Amanda S. was an nonentity. She was OK. She played Cosette sort of frantically, which didn’t help with my overall impression of the character. (Like 90% of women, I prefer Eponine in this contest)
- The reallllllllly close up cinematography was not my cup of tea. Not sure what was happening there. Also, um, the documentary like shaky cam? That got old. Real fast.
- Loved the staging of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and the end reprise. Great stuff right there.
- Oh, the Thenardiers. They were good. Very good. Who doesn’t love “Master of the House”?
- We did not need the new song. Instead of new scenes and new songs, how about you just give me all the verses of “Come to Me” and “Castle on a Cloud”? Grrrr.
- If you haven’t read the book, you might be sort of confused. They bring in Marius’ grandfather for a bit part, and they do the escape into the convent in Paris. If I hadn’t just re-read the book, I would’ve been like, what are we doing here, guys? But it’s all book-based, they didn’t just make it up.
- I sort of wanted a more robust chorus. I can understand why it’s not there, but I wanted it. I like me some big choruses.
- “Lovely Ladies” got chopped up, a lot, which sort of bugged me. I think I’ll enjoy this more the second time I see it, because the reordering of scenes and adding things and moving things around was driving me sort of batty the first time.
- I just wish, wish, WISH the Valjean had been better. Then it would’ve been a truly great film.
- Tom Hooper, the director, likes to do movies about men who are faced with Big Dilemmas: John Adams, George VI, Jean Valjean. These men have to choose to serve the greater good, and live lives of honor and virtue, rather than do what they’d like. He’s a good director for these things, and movies with these underpinnings are too rare anymore in both the TV and movie theater realms. Brings them back, I say!
- And a final note: Colm Wilkinson. Voice like butter. I could listen to him all day. So glad he was in the movie.