Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Misérables

So I watched another movie today! (Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, by the way.) And once again I'm struck by the sudden urge to EXPRESS MYSELF in the general direction of the internet via my blog, haha. I wonder why I didn't feel that urge for all those movies I watched in Taiwan in the past two years. Probably because there were people willing to hear me vent — my family isn't so obliging, haha. (Though they do read my blog posts, I'm told.)

// Anyway, SPOILER WARNING again for those of you who have no idea what happens in Les Misérables. //

First of all, let me start out by saying that this was a really great movie! I loved the musical and am so excited to see a movie version. I definitely cried — and more than once! — as did the person who sat next to me who didn't want to be mentioned on my blog after reading my post from yesterday. Haha. Of course, I still have some criticisms, but there's some praise sprinkled in there as well. ;)

I thought Hugh Jackman did a great job, for the most part. I didn't even recognize him when he first showed up on screen! He looked really different. His singing was pretty good, though for some parts he struggled. I mean, Valjean's part is really hard to sing in the first place, and a lot of sections just aren't particularly melodic, so I suppose there wasn't much he could do about it. Like in the 10th Anniversary concert (which I'm listening to now, hehe), I thought there were parts where it sounded off, even though it was being sung by Colm Wilkinson (he played the bishop in the movie!). It's a difficult part, so I guess I'd cut him some slack. He wasn't perfect, but he was pretty good.

I understand that one of the advantages of movie vs. stage is that we get to see the actors' expressions close-up, but it was way overdone in this movie. As great as Hugh Jackman is, I got tired of seeing the same type of shot of his face over and over. Seriously, some mid- and long-shots for variety, especially when he;s singing, wouldn't kill you! I know you're proud that they're singing live for the take and not lip synching (quite a feat, I know) but you don't need to shove it in our faces. I definitely could've done without constantly staring at people's faces in extreme close-up. And it was awkward when some of the characters looked like they were actually looking into the camera. So weird. And people's eyes looked so buggy. Jackman, expecially. Plus there were some places where someone's face would briefly go out of focus. Is it possible I just imagined that? But I saw it more than once, so I'm super confused. Things like that shouldn't happen, right? Hm.

Next, Russel Crowe was terrible as Javert. TERRIBLE. His acting was bland enough, but his singing? UGH WHY DID THEY CAST HIM??? He can't sing! His voice is mediocre to begin with, but there wasn't even any emotion or dynamic to make up for his technical flaws! The whole thing was just incredibly flat. I was SO disappointed at the way he sang "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide." He definitely didn't do any justice to those songs, which should be powerful and gripping but became completely lifeless whens sung by him. Plus, as mentioned previously, his acting wasn't very good. He was completely non-threatening, non-sinister, and non-compelling as Javert, which shouldn't be the case! It was just so boring to watch him and it made me unhappy whenever he opened his mouth to sing because he's not a good singer. And since a lot of the other people in the cast can actually SING he appeared very lack-luster indeed in comparison. Such a disappointment. They should've chosen someone better! Ugh. He was just so entirely bland and boring and expressionless and his singing sucks. That might be why he didn't get the camera-in-face treatment for as much of his solos, compared to the other people — they probably didn't want the audience to be too focused on his crappy singing, heh.

In contrast, Anne Hathaway blew me away with her voice. I was definitely impressed — I had no idea she could sing! And so well! I thought her rendition of Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream" was amazing. But again, I was disappointed by the decision to keep to the exact same close-up shot for the vast majority of the song. I mean, she's pretty and is very expressive, but I didn't need to stare at her face the entire time, you know? It really bothered me that the camera never zoomed out or changed angles or ANYTHING, just stayed trained right on her face for most of the song. It just got awkward after a while. It would've been perfectly fine to have some different shots for the middle part and then zoom back in for her breakdown. At least in my opinion. I almost cried during her song, but I didn't really cry until she was confronting Valjean and the mayor. That was when my tears came.

The Thénardiers were pretty entertaining! Ok, Sacha Baron Cohen's singing wasn't the best — the enunciation wasn't great, so it was kind of hard to tell what he was singing at times, but he and Helena Carter Bonham definitely fulfilled their role of Comedic Relief, so they get points for that. They got laughs out of me and successfully lightened up an otherwise very melodramatic story. Not perfect, but I approve and thought they did their job. Yay for funny characters! (And I wasn't upset at "Dog Eat Dog" being cut since signing isn't really his strong point.)

Isabelle Allen as young Cosette was just ok, though. I didn't find her "Castle on a Cloud" convincing — she seems unable to sing and act at the same time — and so my heartstrings didn't feel properly tugged. Her acting was slightly better, but then she didn't really have to do anything difficult, just act like she liked Valjean better than the Thénardiers, which can't be very hard. As for the other young actor in the film, I thought Daniel Huttlestone was great as Gavroche. He grew on me, and even though I knew what was coming, I was so sad when he died! Poor guy. Definitely a better actor than Allen.

I thought the students were great! Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was pretty good, no complaints from me. The one who really got my attention was George Blagden as Grantaire — he was so awesome and cute! I never really appreciated Grantaire until I saw Blagden's take. He's funny and has quite the personality. Definitely my favorite out of the students, and I wish he got more screentime! Maybe if they hadn't cut "Drink with Me" short... Anyway, it was heartbreaking to see how young and foolish those students were, and how few of them fought at the barricades, and how they were abandoned by the townspeople who'd been so willing to contribute to the barricade but refused to join in or even grant them asylum when it was clear all was lost. So, so heartbreaking. Sigh.

Marius was ok, I guess. By which I mean Eddie Redmayne. He was fine, not much I want to say about him. Cute enough and a decent singer/actor, though not particularly engaging emotionally. But it wasn't until I watched the movie that I realized how much of an asshole Marius is, so instead of ranting about the actor I'll be ranting about the character. Because first of all, I don't approve of the whole love-at-first-sight thing. But the thing that convinces me he's an absolute asshole is the way he let Valjean leave because he's afraid he'll bring shame to their family. SERIOUSLY? WHAT AN ASSHOLE. And he didn't insist he stay for the wedding or to say goodbye to Cosette himself? What is wrong with him? Even if he's worried about Valjean getting discovered and bringing scandal to their uppity wealthy family, he should still go to the wedding and say goodbye to his daughter! Ugh stupid selfish shallow idiot Marius. He only decides otherwise when he realizes Valjean saved his life. So if Valjean wasn't the one who saved his life he'd be perfectly ok with him missing out on his daughter's wedding and leaving without a goodbye to her and dying on his own? (Well he didn't know about that last one but it'd still be his fault.) WHAT A JERK. I HATE YOU MARIUS.

Cosette, the character, was slightly better, though she's still guilty at the love-at-first-sight thing. Amanda Seyfried was ok too, I suppose, given what she had to work with. I don't understand why Cosette has all these impossibly high notes. It pretty much sounds terrible no matter who sings it and makes me dislike Cosette more than I would otherwise. The warbling just sounds so shrill! Not a fan of Cosette's songs, in general. They're not particularly engaging, emotionally, and those high notes are just ugh. Also, the part where Cosette and Marius were supposed to sing in harmony in "A Heart Full of Love" sounded awful. They sounded out-of-sync from each other. Is it supposed to be like that? The issue wasn't that pronounced in the 10th Anniversary version, so while listening to them I kept feeling like Redmayne and Seyfried were singing it poorly and it really bothered me. But anyway, Seyfried doesn't sing with as much vibrato in her voice as Judy Kuhn does, so I did find her voice less annoying.

In contrast, Redmayne's duet with Samantha Barker in "A Little Fall of Rain" went a lot better. They actually sounded in sync with each other and the harmony didn't sound totally off. Kinda ironic how he's better at singing with Eponine than with Cosette. But yeah, Barker was pretty great! I did definitely feel more sympathy for her unrequited love than for Marius and Cosette's stupid infatuation with each other. And she can actually sing, so yay, points for her! "On My Own" was pretty good — her rendition isn't my favorite version, but no major complaints from me (though I'm sad it was shortened). And she actually had some different shots during her solo so that was good, though by the end of the song it was still camera-in-face. And I thought it was great that in the movie she got the wound from saving Marius's life — it makes her more heroic and selfless, especially compared with the stupid Marius and Cosette, neither of whom willingly sacrificed anything for their supposed "true love," unlike everyone else around them who were dying left and right so they could live and be happy. Seriously, Marius and Cosette look so spoiled, silly, and shallow next to the kind of self-sacrifice shown by Eponine, Fantine, and Valjean. It is kind of sad that Eponine got cut from "Valjean's Death" since her duet with Fantine is awesome, but given the story it does make more sense that only Fantine is there since Eponine didn't exactly leave a huge mark on Valjean himself. But yeah, her parts were great. Love Eponine! (Even if she did fall in love with someone who turned out to be a jerk. But at least they were friends first, and he wasn't actually that much of a jerk until he saw Cosette. But yes, she probably should've gotten over him once he fell in love with Cosette and left him to die at the barricade — she deserves someone who loves her!)

I cried SO MUCH when Jean Valjean died at the end! Really admire him for always trying to do the right thing and for working to right his wrongs. And he even let Javert go! A bit too optimistic, in my opinion, but I guess Valjean thought he was just doing his job. Anyway, Valjean is a great hero, and Cosette and Marius treated him shamefully. They are awful people and it's so sad that Valjean and Fantine's sweet darling Cosette turned out to be such a shallow and insipid woman. But I did like the part at the end when all the dead people are singing on the barricades. It's a ridiculous representation of the afterlife, but a nice hopeful end to the movie, especially since I got to see all my favorite actors/characters one last time and none of the ones I hated or disliked. Ha.

So yeah, despite my complaints about the awfulness of Russell Crowe and jerkassness of Marius, over all, I did very much enjoy seeing Les Misérables on the silver screen! :)

9 comments:

  1. Glad to hear it's good! I definitely liked what I saw in the trailers and in the "making of" video they released beforehand. (Although the endless string of closeups might bother me too...) "On My Own" is my faaaaavorite song -- to the point that I barely even remember the others. (And as much as I like Taylor Swift, I'm glad she wasn't cast as Eponine. That would have been disastrous, to put it mildly.)

    As for your character complaints... I think they're all SUPPOSED to come off a bit awful, right? I mean, I never finished reading the book (the 30 page digression on the Napoleon War stopped me) but my impression was that it's all about the various shades of humanity, many of which (at least in wartime) are not so pleasant. "The Miserable," right? :P
    But then, that allows you (the reader) to appreciate the true goodness even more.

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  2. "On My Own" was definitely my favorite song for a long time, but I also like "One Day More" a lot, and I realized how awesome Javert's songs were while watching the movies (maybe because I was so disappointed in Russell Crowe, haha). And omg I'm SO GLAD Taylor Swift wasn't cast!!! Gah that would not have been good.

    Huh, I thought Marius and Cosette are supposed to be seen as optimistic innocent young lovers and not really as bad people at all. They're the people everyone else is trying to keep innocent and pure, right? But as you know, I hate the insta-love trope to death and that's pretty much what happened to them, so I have a hard time rooting for them at all. I don't think they're supposed to be the miserable ones. In fact they're the LEAST miserable people in the entire story because they live perfectly comfortable lives and have happy endings (which Valjean didn't really have in the book) while everyone else is desperate and dying around them. So yeah, not much sympathy.

    Although I was talking about Marius with my dad and he says his character arc would fit with a critique of life phases in some rich and powerful people's kids. Like, they go through this period of wanting to play poor and be all rebellious, but ultimately they're happy to go back to their rich comfortable lives and guard their reputations fiercely and hate on poor people and criminals. Hahaha.

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  3. Yes, I agree that Marius and Cosette are the ones that everyone is trying to keep pure, but that's precisely what makes them a bit awful: they haven't earned their goodness/happiness. So again, they serve as a contrast to the people who HAVE earned it but haven't achieved it.

    I'm not saying they're "bad" people; but again, I think the entire point of Les Mis is that "good" and "bad" aren't easy/fair categories to throw people into, and that there's a whole spectrum, where nuances and contradictions often come into play.Totally agree with your dad's observations, by the way. :P

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  4. Yea, I seriously could not wait for Javert to kill himself.  While he was singing his final song, I kept thinking, "Please just kill yourself already."
    Agree about Marius being an asshole.

    And Yay, you are back to making blog posts!  

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  5. Haha yeah, thanks to a combination of watching movies, family members who refuse listen to me complain, and lots of free time on my hands :)

    Hope you're having a good holiday season! :D

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  6. So, I finally saw it myself a couple weeks ago and kept meaning to come back here...

    - I didn't think Russell Crowe was awful. I mean, his singing voice couldn't possibly compare to Jackman or Hathaway (both of whom deserve every nom they get, Jackman in particular) but I thought he did fine.

    - Marius was kind of ugly (IMO) but I felt like you didn't give him enough credit. He stayed with his friends to fight the good fight, both before and after learning of Cosette's letter.

    - Also, Cosette could have gone against Valjean's wishes and run away to stay with Marius, but she always stuck by him, even finding him in the end when he tried to ditch her. (OK that's a silly way of putting his decision, but you know what I mean.)

    - Overall I thought it was quite a good film, and I was surprised that the nearly 3 hours didn't feel so long. "On My Own" continues to be my favorite, and I thought the Thenardiers were hilarious. Gavroche was pretty great too, poor kid.

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  7. Oh yay, glad you enjoyed it! :) I like it a lot, too, but mainly because I love the musical. Ok, I admit Marius and Cossette weren't as awful as they could've been. That'a not enough to make me think much better of them, though. And good to hear Russell Crowe's performance didn't bother you at all. Yeah, the Thernadiers and Gavroche were great! And "On My Own" is SUCH an awesome song. I totally know all the words and sing it when I'm being emo hahaha. :)

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  8. Oh yeah, it was definitely my middle school emo/crush song. And after seeing the movie, I find myself singing it again randomly. "Do you hear the people sing" jumps into my head a lot too, but I don't know the words hahaha.

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