Monday, June 24, 2013

My Thoughts on the 2012 film version of Les Miserables

I've finally managed to see the latest film version of Les Miserables

While I love and appreciate Hugh Jackman's character acting and the ways in which that filled out Jean Valjean - bringing dignity, strength, and intelligence to the character - I was at times underwhelmed with his singing. It was good, it just... didn't hit some of the best sung lines as strongly as some of the stage Valjeans that I have heard. 

And Javert... on the whole, I was sadly disappointed with Russell Crowe as Javert. 

Though I must confess I have never been a huge fan of the Thénardiers,, I did not particularly like the way Sacha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter played them in this film. In particular, while they brought some interesting color to the characters, I felt their musical presentation and sung lines were not as strong in the film as they have been with previous actors on stage.

Anne Hathaway was a deliciously poignant Fantine. Her performance stood apart from the rest of the film. I am not entirely sure about the choice to move "I Dreamed a Dream" to the end of so many of her trials and degredations (in the stage show it comes just after she has lost her job at the factory, before she has sold her hair or been forced into prostitution). The placement gives the song entirely new color and texture. It's very different. I'm still absorbing it. Speaking of degredations, Fantine in the book sells her teeth, but that has not previously been a part of stage productions. I am still absorbing its inclusion in the film, but I must confess that I found it somewhat incongruous to see terribly close shots of her face showing perfect white teeth in "I Dreamed a Dream" just a few scenes after she had supposedly sold and had (at least one or two of) her teeth roughly pulled.

I was surprised to find myself particularly taken, also, with Aaron Tveit's Enjolras. This is a character that I have never taken particular note of before, but what a tremendous stage presence he had!

Samantha Barks was a good Epoinine. Amanda Seyfried as Cosette was stunning to look at, though her singing was a bit too warbly and trilly for my taste. Eddie Redmayne played a quite decent Marius. Most other castings seemed good, if not great.

I wish that Tom Hooper had been a bit less heavy handed with the super-close ups, and with the constant camera view shifting. Sometimes it took a great deal of processing power to figure out what was going on in a scene with constant close up camera shifting between characters, when it would have been clear, easy to follow, and perhaps easier to appreciate the music and story if he had just stepped back with the cameras. And, if used somewhat less, the closeups might have had somewhat more emotional impact when he did use them.

My thoughts on the film aside, if you want to read a good comparison of previous Les Miserables stage versions to this film version, I found this four part review quite interesting.

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