Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Review Time

We went to see the movie version of Les Mis the other night. First, of course, I wept my way through it. We literally took a box of tissues with us. The theatre staff was greatly amused. My overall experience was ... good. Second, Amanda Seyfried and Russel Crowe were miscast due to their voices. Their acting was spot on; their voices were weak for the roles. Weak enough that it pulled me out of some very important, emotional moments. And it's a shame because Crowe delivered an acting performance that will remind you why we all loved him originally and Seyfried is exactly who Cosette should be. The fact that their voices don't carry the score shouldn't detract as much as it does ~ but it does. For the rest...

Hm. I don't really know how to explain it. It didn't go onscreen well. So much of what is stirring and makes it work is the music. But when you have close ups of these deeply talented actors at the top of their game, who emote so well, and you can actually see them, as opposed to being anywhere from a couple dozen to a couple hundred feet away from them, the music becomes not so necessary, almost redundant. Also, when you are that close and the actors can act a song that realistically, the need for the song to be what carries the audience goes away. They can ~ and do ~ get away with a whisper, with a mumble to themselves. You lose that swell in your chest as those notes hit the back wall of the auditorium and you are swept away in the pain/love/angst/power ~ and yet the orchestration is demanding that kind of catharsis, in spite of the vocalization not giving it to you.

From back when the show first took the world by storm, I have never liked the innkeepers (the Thenardiers). Slapstick comedy is my least favorite and they are the epitome of slapstick. Every version I have ever seen has these two completely over the top. For me, their song, their scenes, were grotesque ~ and not in the way they were supposed to be. Repulsively unneccessary and offputting. Interestingly enough, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter ~ two actors completely capable of grotesquely over the top performances ~ deliver the most reigned in and sedate versions of these roles ever. While it wasn't enough to make me like the characters ~ in the way we are supposed to like intentionally unlikable characters ~ it was enough to make me not cringe, which has never happened before when these two are onstage.

The final negative critique is that having to cut from place to place to place and person to person during some of the ensemble pieces, instead of having them all there onstage, able to be taken in at once, takes away from the impact of a couple of songs. Part of what makes the juxtaposition powerful is the audience's ability to be with each character, constantly, through the song arc. Bouncing us between them all prevented that, in a pretty jarring way.

All that being said, if there is any justice in the universe, Aaron Tveit, who plays Enjolras (the lead student rebel), Samantha Barks, who plays Eponine, and Daniel Huttlestone, who plays Gavroche (the little boy) are about to become big stars, if they choose to stay in movies.  

Also, the moment that was better on screen than on stage ~ when the barricade is falling, the people haven't risen, the rebellion has collapsed, and the young men are scattering, ideals aside, just trying to survive the slaughter, they go to the doors of the people who have been supporting them, egging them on, assuring them they would stand with the young men. They find the doors locked against them, they have to pound on the doors that have been open and welcoming throughout the planning process. They have to beg to be let in ~ and they are ignored. It takes less time than it has to read this description. Yet, that two second moment and the cry of "PLEASE!" has stayed with me in the way that the stage production always has, and the movie...doesn't quite.  

If you get a chance to see it ~ or have seen it ~ let me know. I would love to hear your take on it as well. Do take tissues, though, because Jackman and Hathaway are as good as you want them to be.

Now, since there is no carol or that can follow that, allow me to strip your gears a bit. Have some Nat King Cole... 

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


William Dameron said...

I have seen this on the stage and just saw the movie. I have to say, I loved the close ups, especially Hathaway's close up during her "I dreamed a dream". So wonderfully and tragically emoted. That teared me up.

MikeC said...

Re: Seyfried and Crowe. What happened to the day when Hollywood had no problem dubbing an actor with a professional singer when the actor couldn't handle the singing part? I miss the Marni Nixon era terribly.

BostonPobble said...

Bill ~ Yes, it's saying something when the close-ups and the acting are so beautiful that music this strong becomes irrelevant. She was breathtaking, wasn't she?

Mike C ~ I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, absolutely. If the person you want can't handle it, dub away! On the other, there are so many talented people out there that I can't bring myself to believe that the whole package isn't out there. For these two specifically, I don't mean to imply they were bad (in case that's what you heard). Think really strong college theatre, national tour, or solid rep company, as opposed to bad. It's just that everyone else was so damn good, Crowe and Seyfried's weaknesses stood out.