Sunday, 3 February 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables, 2012
Directed by Tom Hooper
Nominated for 8 Oscars

Les Miserables is one of the most popular, beloved and well-known stage musicals. It tells the story, starting and ending, with Jean Valjean, a prisoner for 19 years in the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread. Finally, he is released on parole, but breaks it so to make a better life for himself. Years later, he has achieved this "better life", and when he learns one of the workers at his factory was let go, and has a child she is trying to look after, Valjean decides to rescue this child after the woman (Fantine) dies. Valjean, while still hunted, rescues the child, Cosette, and both their lives are changed forever.

I must confess something. Being the bookaholic I am, I decided to read Les Miserables before ever having seen the full musical (I've seen 45 minutes of the 10th anniversary a year before reading). Yes, you read that correctly. I read Les Miserables. Unabridged, and I skipped no pages. And once I read the final page of the book, I realized I`d screwed myself over for watching the musical or the movie. No play or film could ever accurately portray how beautifully written this book had been; how complex, how heartbreaking, and how glorious it was told. Yes, there were many parts that were drawn out or unnecessary, but when you got to the meat of the story, it was so incredible. And once I read the entire summary of the musical, I knew I was in for a let down. Because translating a 1200 page novel into a 3 hour musical meant that many things were going to be changed, and many would be simplified.

The problems I had with this movie were not the films fault (unless we're talking costume inaccuracies, or historical inaccuracies, but that's different), but that it was over-simplified from how the book had told it. Cosette and Marius did not take one look at each other and were in love. Eponine was not really a main character at all. The Thenardiers were not funny, but were incredibly evil people (and had more children than just Eponine). But I digress.

The first half of the film was incredibly done. Hugh Jackman is the powerhouse of the film, and carries it all on his shoulders. His performance is constantly great, and his singing is really quite good. The live singing, I thought, was incredibly well done. The group numbers were all my favourites and sounded so so good. Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, completely and utterly broke my heart. Her portrayal as Fantine was so emotional, and raw, and broken, that I believed her completely every second. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was heartbreaking, and had me in tears (like everyone else in the theater). For only being in the film a short period of time, her character was properly fleshed out and had the right amount of development (something that the second half of the film lacked).

Everything, right up to where Marius, Eponine, etc come in, this film was really, really good. I had thought I wouldn't like the film whatsoever because of the book, but was surprised I liked the movie so much. Until then. Whether this is how it goes in the stage musical, or if this is just the film, I'm not sure, but everything felt very rushed and under-developed at that point. While Marius was my absolute favourite (Jean Valjean a very close runner up) in the book, his character was extremely diminished. We didn't get to know him on a deeper level like we had Fantine and Valjean. Same goes with Eponine. I felt like I hardly knew her at all before she dies. Which was such a shame. Had there been more time to flesh out these 2 characters, and the other revolutionaries, this would have been much better, but it felt too rushed, and too shallow for me to really care.

Overall, it's very hard to come to a conclusion of what I thought of the film overall. The first half was incredible, well paced and heartbreaking. The second half felt a little more rushed, less character development happening. It makes it very hard to decide what you thought overall.

So overall, I know that the live singing was well executed, and brought a lot more emotional, and a lot more acting in to the film. It made things seem a lot more real. I feel like I Dreamed a Dream would not have been nearly as heart-wrenching had it not been sung live. It would've sounded too perfect and not broken enough. The acting was all superb. Jackman, Hathaway were great. And I adored Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Russell Crowe was not nearly as bad a singer as I'd kept hearing he was (he was decent, ok people?). The visuals were stunning and the makeup for Jean Valjean was excellent. But there were pacing issues, lack of character development, etc.

I'd say Rotten Tomatoes hits it right when it gives it a 70%. It wasn't anything fantastic, but wasn't horrible either. It was a decent movie.


No comments:

Post a Comment