Every musical theatre artist and most college students have had their Facebooks and Twitters savagely raped by each and every movie goer’s opinion of Les Mis in the last 72 hours. Mine was no exception, and I, too, was one of the guilty gang-bangers. I did, however, try to keep it brief and mostly positive. But, since I, like every other twenty year old with a passionate love of the stage, have a lot of opinions on the matter, I will share them here. This afternoon was my second time seeing the film, so I spent a lot of the movie both appreciating the work and comparing the general Facebook consensus to what I was seeing. If you would rather kill your father, sleep with your mother, and blind yourself before reading one more godforsaken word on Les Mis, I won’t hold it against you if you stop reading. Otherwise, here we go.
First off: Anne Hathaway, you are a goddess and I bow to you. The amount of lifestyle commitment you put into this film is commendable (tremendous loss of weight, hair, etc.). Secondly, your “I Dreamed a Dream” was all I could have hoped for. The most impressive thing to me was that after the brief intro section of the song, she did the whole thing IN ONE TAKE. I was peeing myself as I realized that there were no shifting angles at all. I hope everyone on set that day was crying as much as I was, because they witnessed pure beauty. Oh, this is a side note, but just in case you have been living under a Siberian rock up until reading this blog post, the actors sang live on set, along to piano accompaniment playing in an ear piece. Except for when they were standing in a foot of water, aka “Look Down” aka the opening number.
As a general rule of thumb, I would like to note that the Broadway actors BEASTED the Hollywood actors. Granted, I think that everyone was, if not spectacular, really good. Obviously every performance has it’s flaws, but I was really pleased with the adaptation as a whole. Other than the addition of a perfectly fine new song, Suddenly, (a plot to win the Best Original Song Oscar? I think so) the changes that were made to the stage version were small: reworded lyrics, some reordering of songs, liberties taken with pickups and tempos, etc. but none of it really bothered me and it all seemed to serve the storytelling.
Anyway, the all-stars representing Team Broadway were Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, who was my favorite along with Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks as Eponine in her first ever film, Daniel Huttlestone as a wonderful Gavroche, and Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean, as the Bishop of Digne. Representing Team Hollywood were Russel Crowe as Javert, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers. I will count the Tony Award winners Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, playing Valjean and Marius, respectively, as third party candidates, as each has had successful careers both on stage and screen.
Most of the public ridicule is being doled out to Crowe for a strangely sung and boringly acted interpretation of Inspector Javert. While I see where these opinions are coming from, I don’t quite agree. In fact, I preferred him to Jackman. His full tone and soft consonants did occasionally make him sound like a cross between a deaf child and a frog, but I would say that was a minority of the time, and I was actually pleasantly surprised that he could carry a tune pretty well. His tone fit the role, and I was actually rather moved by his rendition of “Stars.” While, I admit, he didn’t make as many bold choices as he could have, I would say his stoicism fit the role well. I don’t think Seyfried should be getting any shit either. The only thing that the role of Cosette is written to do is stand there prettily and hit that high C, both of which she accomplished effortlessly, regardless of what you think of her lightning speed vibrato. The pair of three named actors portraying the Innkeeper and his wife were predictably funny and charming. I really liked the directorial choice to have them truly love each other as opposed to the over-arching resentment that Mme. Thenardier’s “Master of the House” verse sometimes garners.
Hugh Jackman was a great actor and all, but I really did not like his voice at all for this role. On any note above an A3, his tone got ridiculously nasal and shallow, even breathy at times. Not really fitting for the most masculine protagonist in musical theatre history. It only really got under my skin for “Bring Him Home” which Jackman mixed instead of providing us with some falsetto-borne relief, which I would have resented a lot more if Redmayne didn’t provide us with it. Stick to the baritone roles, Hugh darling. Eddie Redmayne’s brilliant acting skills and even more brilliant cheekbones covered all flaws of his performance. His voice, while not perfect, really held up. I don’t even want to mention the flaws here, because it would be a disservice to distract from the things that really matter: great acting chops and impeccable facial structure.
I truly believe Aaron Tveit stole the show, so to speak. His Enjolras was all I could have wanted it to be and more. He was a strong leader, but allowed himself humanity. His option up on the last two words of the lyric “Let others rise to take our place until the earth is free” is certainly my favorite moment of the nearly three hour experience. As much as I’d love to have seen him fall backwards across the barricade, I’m so happy that they kept that stunning, iconic image in their version of the battle.
I will say that the only thing I was disappointed in was the directorial choices for “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” As annoying as Marius is as a character, I think the best song of the show is his, despite the amount of times I have heard girls insist that their “On My Own” is different and therefore appropriate for auditions. (It’s not ladies, sorry you can only sing it if you’re cast in the role.) Eddie Redmayne did a stellar job, even if he was scared of the high notes, but I thought that, what with the possibilities that film provides, director Tom Hooper could have done something bold here. The stage version normally features the phantoms of the rebel students reentering to gaze back at the lamenting Marius, and this version truly had nothing but an empty room. Maybe it was just me wanting to see Aaron Tveit again, but I think the song is made all the more powerful when the audience can see what Marius is imagining. I had assumed it was an attempt at realism until the end of the movie when Fantine’s ghost moment was kept. I suppose it wasn’t an offensive choice, I just believe that a few more tears could have been extracted otherwise.
All in all, I’m very happy with the results. I am always nervous when the big screen tries to take on material that I love, whether it be a book or a play, and Les Miserables did extremely well at holding onto the integrity of the piece. Tveit and Hathaway, you rocked it. Eddie Redmayne, I want a poster of your gorgeous, Burberry face on my bedroom wall. Everyone involved, you deserve a huge thumbs up and hopefully a handful of Oscars.
In completely unrelated news, I went on a very nice date with a very cute boy today. Too bad he lives in Michigan. Womp. My life.
Stay hot and keep it messy,