Friday, January 4, 2013
Les Miserables film review
(FYI - Even though I would have written this anyway, I am including it in my World Literature Assignment since I have to write a Movie Review).
On New Years Day, I went and saw the film based on the musical of Les Miserables(which, in turn, is based on Victor Hugo's amazing novel). While I have not had the opportunity to watch the musical(though I had listened to several of the songs), I had loved the book and the songs I'd heard, so I was definitely looking forward to seeing this rendition of one of my favorite stories.
The story revolves around former convict Jean Valjean who was thrown into prison for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and his subsequent escape attempts and watches as, after he is set free, as he tries to become a better, Godly man in the dark times of France. Along with Jean Valjean, Les Miserables follows an array of characters such as the prostitute Fantine, her daughter Cosette, a band of revolutionary college students, and, most importantly, the poor and destitute of French society as they all try to survive and make better lives for themselves in a world that only cares about itself.
I had been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the first trailer back in early 2012 and it definitely did not disappoint! The film, from what I can tell, did wonderfully in translating the state musical into a larger set for a movie- the songs were really well done and the setting for them all looked realistic. The film really starts up well with Jean Valjean and the other convicts pulling a great ship in by ropes while singing the opening number which I really loved the sound of- the effects are amazing and I loved how well they had everything set up. The plot progresses nicely and while it didn't include everything from the book(which I didn't expect, it being based on the musical and the book being a whopper in length), I loved that they incorporated elements in the book that were left out of the musical into the movie, such as Enjolras's death scene. While in the musical, he is killed while waving the red banner of revolution on the barricade, in the novel he is shot in an upstairs room with Grantaire who had requested to be shot with him- I found the scene in the novel to be very poignant so I was very happy to see this change from the musical in the film.
Since I wanted to be surprised, I didn't listen to all the songs from the musical, and I'm very glad I did- I was able to enjoy the songs I hadn't heard yet quite well(and I was impressed with the beauty of some of the songs) as well as enjoying the songs I'd already heard, especially "One Day More" and "Do You Hear the People Sing"(both versions). The large musical numbers were almost all amazing, especially the beautiful ending. They did it perfectly!; I loved how they handled the sadness, and relief, during Jean Valjean's death scene(as well as seeing Fantine and the bishop make appearances to guide Jean Valjean to heaven) as well as the happiness and joy of all the characters who have died in heaven singing on a gigantic barricade about climbing to the light. "Do You Hear The People Sing(reprise)" is one of my favorite numbers from the musical, so I was very happy to see how well they did it in the film(in fact, the ending had me nearly crying, which is a pretty great feat, since I don't cry that often while watching something).
Another section I really enjoyed was the battle at the barricade and the scenes revolving around it. This part had been one of my favorite sections of the novel, and the despair and desperation, as well as the reckless bravery of the revolutionaries, is very well depicted and having seen the disgusting living conditions or the poor and destitute in the film, you want them to win in their endeavors even though it is obvious that they will be hopeless against the mighty French army.
While I enjoyed the majority of this amazing film, there were definitely some things that didn't need to be shown. I of course understand the need to show the prostitutes and the gross scum who go down their to 'get some' since it highlights poor Fantine's descent and the lengths she went to take care of her daughter; however, there were things that were forced into the film in an attempt to be funny that really, truly didn't need to be there- I mean, did we really need to see the whole 'Guy dressed up as Santa with the Prostitute thing'. Seriously? You cut out really beautiful lines in some of my favorite songs(especially A Little Fall of Rain) and add THAT? Oh well, it was only a few scenes- the rest of the scenes did deserve to be in the film. And the Thenardier's were really hilarious, especially the whole "Colette' thing XD.
While all the actors were amazing, Hugh Jackman really stole the show as Jean Valjean- I'd seen Hugh in X-Men as Wolverine and I already knew he was a good actor, but seeing him in the trailer, I was pretty sure he'd be able to pull off the role. And he did! He brought the character we all love from the novel to life splendidly and we really get a sense of his character's kindness and his struggle with his past. Since he did such a good job at making the audience fall in love with his character, you actually feel very sad when he dies, yet you are happy since he did live a good life and his one regret(not having been able to bring Cosette to Fantine in time) is reconciled in his soul and he is reunited with everyone who has died(as well as the bishop who made him a Godly man) in heaven. Even though Mr. Jackman is amazing in every scene he does, his best were the ending where his character dies, his scenes with Fantine(he had really good acting chemistry with Anne Hathaway), and his interactions with a young Cosette.
Even though Hugh Jackman was my favorite part of the film, I also really enjoyed several other of the characters, especially that of Eponine who is one of my favorite characters in both the book and musical, was beautifully played by Samantha Banks. I'd already loved her as Eponine(having seen her do the role on stage in the 25th anniversary), but she did even better here. Samantha really grasped Eponine's sadness, strength, and bravery as she plays the character and we really feel bad for her and wish things could have been different for her. Her performance of Eponine's singing parts were amazing- she is a very talented singer and definitely my favorite female singer in this movie. I only wish we could have seen more of her- she is an amazing character and Sam is very good, so I was sad when they cut some of her parts out. Though they did show her awesomeness in the little we do see her and for that I am grateful.
I was also impressed by the characters of Enjolras, Gavroche, Javert, and young Cosette. From the trailers, I didn't think Russel Crowe would do very good at Javert(since his singing didn't seem all that strong), but I was pleasantly surprised at how well he did the role. While he his performance isn't as good as Norm Lewis's, he definitely holds his own and did fantastically with his character's conflict/guilt(It was a nice touch having him place that ribbon of the revolution on Gavroche's dead body-very sad and reflective) and his suicide song; I loved how his solos of Stars and Javert's Soliloquy were mirror-like images of each other with him walking along the edge of a roof/wall.
While I loved the little girl playing young Cosette, I wasn't too impressed with Amanda Seyfried who played Cosette as a young woman. While I do like Cosette as a character in the book and musical, I just didn't care too much for Amnda's performance. I'm not sure if it was the writing, directing, or what, but it really left something to be desired.
Anne Hathaway was really good as Fantine and did "I Dreamed A Dream" the best that I've ever heard it. While not as obsessed as a lot of people are with her, I still really enjoyed her performance(especially her scenes with Jean Valjean) and I loved the beautiful, bloody gash she left on that assholes's face(I'm happy they followed the book in that scene as well) >:D.
And Eddie Redmayne also surprised me as Marius. I didn't think he'd be that good, but he was wonderful as his character, especially in the song "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" which I think really captured his talent.
So, even though there were a few things that weren't needed, the film is definitely a masterpiece of filming, acting, and singing and I would recommend it to anyone who loves the book, the musical, or just musicals in general.
Just a word of warning- this is NOT a kid's, or family, movie so I wouldn't take little kids to go and see it(since they might be disturbed by certain scenes). However, if your at least fourteen/fifteen, and you've seen about the same level or inappropriate content, then you should be okay.
Now, I just have to involve myself in a production of this musical sometime and get the role of Eponine ;) :)
May the Force be with you..Always :)
Jedi Shena Tokala signing off.