Sunday, January 06, 2013

Review of Les Miserables (Spoilers)

Last night I went and saw the film adaption of the musical Les Miserables. I thought that I'd take the time now to write down some of my reflections.

Les Miserables is the first musical that I loved. During driving trips with our family, it wouldn't matter which one of family had the choice, 'Les Miz' would almost always be chosen. I'd often hear my brother sing Stars, or Javert's part in The Confrontation. We'd often talk about the characters, the songs, and the stories, which had grabbed all of us.  I loved it when we saw some brilliant amateur productions in Wollongong, (some of which outshone the production I saw in London). When I finally read the book I grew to love the characters more (and I think it is almost time to read it again).

So I was delighted to hear that the musical would be adapted for the 'big' screen.  The advantage of the film format in translating the story is that the director is not limited by a stage, and enabling the audience to have both close-ups of the actors, and wide shots. Sure, the film does remove certain things from your imagination, but enriches the experience in doing so. The best examples were seeing Fantine sing I Dreamed a Dream, after watching her life fall apart, and Eponine On My Own  which have always been highlights for me.

Onto to the film. My overall impression was how true the film was to the spirit of Hugo's book, and Boubil and Schonberg's musical.  It was great to see the continuing evolution of the story.  The film adds a song, Suddenly. Valjean sings as he takes Cosette away from Thenardier, and adds detail to the story by showing how Valjean is approaching fatherhood. The words of the song are taken from Hugo's book. I also quite liked Sacha Baron Cohen and Helen Boneham Carter as the Thenardier's

It was also intriguing to see how the order of songs were changed, and lines which seemed to have been added (or moved around).  Most of these changes worked to strengthen the impact of the film. Though I was sad to see Grantaire's part (below) of Drink with Me cut:

Drink with me to days gone by,
Can it be you fear to die?
Will the world remember you when you fall?
Could it be your death means nothing at all?
Is your life just one more lie?
As it added a depth to the revolutionaries which wasn't really present in the film. I would find it interesting to listen to the director talk about his approach to making the film.

The biggest let downs for me were Russell Crowe (Javert) and Eddie Redmayne (Marius), who in terms of both their acting and singing just didn't quite carry their roles.  On the flip side, the standouts were Anne Hathaway and Samantha Banks (as Fantine & Eponine).  I was also impressed with how authentic  Hugh Jackman was as Valjean. It was a nice touch for Colm Wilkinson (who was Valjean in the Original London & Broadway casts) to play the Bishop.

In sum, the film did a beaut job of bringing the story of grace, mercy and redemption to the big screen, and hopefully a large number of people will come to appreciate the story for the first time.  I definitely would like to see it again, as I'm sure I'd be struck by different things the second time around.

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