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"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Les Mis, Hollywood Style (A Review of Sorts)

I once had the good fortune to see Les Miserables one stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.  Beautiful theater, The Fox.Worth a visit if you ever have the chance.  I have never had a bad experience or sat in a bad seat there, and I've been up in the rafters once or twice!

The production I saw was terrific - well played, well sung, incredible sets, beautifully done all around.

I have the recording done by the international cast, including a young Japanese woman who reportedly didn't speak a word of English but sang the part of Eponine flawlessly after learning it phonetically.  I have played it so often, were it a record I'd have worn through the grooves by now.  As it is, I can sing the play from start to finish in my sleep.

Yesterday, a couple of friends and I took a day for us.  We went to lunch, and then to the movies.  We chose Les Miserables because I didn't know any of the other movies showing (I live under a rock, remember, with little media input), and nothing else looked interesting.

I'll be honest, I was a little dubious of Les Mis on film...until I saw that Hugh Jackman was in it.  Then I was all for it.  Come on...Hugh Jackman...mmmmm...

Three hours.

It was every minute of three hours from opening to end of credits.

I'm glad I got the large popcorn and the super-mega-bladderbuster drink.

In this day and age, a musical...even an epic, famous, hugely popular Broadway musical...just isn't the thing for film (Chicago being a noted exception).  Also, Broadway doesn't often translate well to film, does it?  There's something about live people, on a stage in front of one, something about feeling more drawn in by physical presence, that doesn't usually make it into film.  A play?  I'm in the room with the characters.  A film?  I am observing from a distance.

Some thoughts about the movie:

The actors sang their own parts.  Yes.  They did.  I know!  They did quite well, I thought.  Not trained-Broadway-polished-pitch-perfect well, but well enough that my ears were not offended.  Kudos to anyone with the chutzpah to take one any of those rolls without a lifetime of voice coaching!  I AM a singer, classically trained, and I only sing along with the CD if no one's around.  Hey, I said I could sing it, but I didn't say I could sing it well.  The rough spots, the occasionally wobbling note, somehow made it more...real.

The music was not entirely the same.  There were things taken out, thing added in, which threw me.

A few pieces of plot were switched about.  I don't generally approve of that.  It didn't help the story line  and I think it took away from one important dynamic.

The casting was brilliant - Russell Crow, Hugh Jackman, Ann Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen...

The acting was excellent.

When one knows the play, knows the music, and still gets...weepy...then one knows the film is well done, indeed.

A few seats down, some girls were sobbing at the end.  Sobbing.  Served 'em right for spending some thirty minutes in the middle of the film wrestling with a candy wrapper made of extra loud, Kevlar strength cellophane.  And for having a cell phone on and receiving texts in a theater.  Who doesn't know that's rude? Who???

I always feel a little annoyed with Fantine and Cosette, and sorry for Javert.  Well written characters do that, snooker me into having feelings about them.  Hugh Jackman was a delicious Valjean.  Of course, he's a delicious anything.

The Thenardiers were delightfully horrid, as always.

If you haven't seen the play or movie, or at least heard the sound track, right now you are wondering what the hell I am talking about.  Sorry.

I had the thought that, if nothing else, the film brings an epic, lush, compelling bit of storytelling out of the somewhat less accessible theater and onto the more easily affordable big screen, staying true enough to the original that folks can say they've seen Les Mis without quibble, and for that I think the film maker deserves lauds - thank you, Tom Hooper!

Over all, I enjoyed it enough to be worth the full priced ticket ( Holy cats, when did it get so expensive?  Granted, I haven't been to a movie in a while...okay, in years...but wow!), and would go see it again.  I feel confident that anyone trotting off for a film would be, at the very least, entertained by it.  The only caveat?  This is a full-on, no holds barred musical, and if that's not your thing you may not enjoy it as much.

Here, a gratuitous movie poster for your amusement:

What's the latest movie you've seen, and how did you like it?

1 comment:

Holly said...

I will admit, I don't love this play as you do. I like it, but...

I really liked the movie with Liam Nieson which is really the story...

But, what I do love about this musical is that not only did the actors sing their parts, they did not sing it first in a studio and then lip-sinc during the shooting. I think it's why the movie seemed more real.

One thing I will say, if one is not familiar with the play, the movie, being able to see the players up close, does help with the understanding of it all.

Did I love it? I really enjoyed it and it was time very well spent!