I am pretty certain my opinion matters little in the world of “what people think of the Les Miserables film.” Those who care have their own fierce thoughts and feelings, no doubt.
A tiny bit of history. Mine. With the musical. I heard about the musical back in 1985. Being 10 years old before the internet, my link to the theatre world was through magazines. At the college library there was one magazine on the technical aspects of the theatre and one for educators. I read them. Thoroughly. A tiny column in the tech mag mentioned a stunning, game changing design being prepared for a try out at the Barbican. When it opened in London I read more in the same magazine about John Napier’s crazy famous twisty turny barricade. I searched obscure catalogs and managed to get a copy of the concept recording (from way back in 1980) sometime between its opening in London and the Broadway previews. And probably because it was available first, I had the London cast on cassette.
So yes, I still sing all the songs in a thick Cockney.
It took me years to understand phrases like "sold her hair" and "see each other plain." By 1989 I had a copy of "The Complete Les Miserables" book which solved all these woes as it included a full libretto. At some point they also published the first contemporary unabridged version of the novel which had the musical cover art on the front. These were the tools to begin a proper obsession. It was that blessed "complete" book that made me aware of international versions of musicals. A dangerous thing for a budding costumer. So much to research! Then it wasn’t long until the "Complete Symphonic Recording" was released. 1990. I was in high school and had (OOOooooh) a cd player now. This recording spoiled me. I wanted every musical to release recordings this thorough. Ummm. Dream on, freakish child. At any rate, now I could actually learn all of the roles I would ever play (or not) AND sing them in even more bizarre accents– since this was an international recording. You should know, Eponine is almost unintelligible. Thank God I already had that libretto! Now all you need to know is that, until Spring Awakening came along, Les Miserables was the show I had seen most in professional settings (London, Broadway and National Tours.) I think I have seen it around 17 times, many of those before it was hacked down from 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Sorry, sweet mary, I haven’t even gotten to the movie.
Okay, let’s just talk performances.
I was blessed to see it early (with some very special people!) and have had a couple days to let my brain settle. Many of my thoughts are formed around the opinions of others. Like "OMG Russell Crowe sucks." Yea, so what? Somebody had to, I figure. It’s a movie. They cast actors. They hope they can carry a tune, even if it is a freakin’ opera. It’s irresponsible, but sells tickets. Meh. The most egregious misstep was that he was a tepid Javert. And that might not even have been his fault. They clearly directed him to be too sympathetic. That shit with him pinning his badge on Gavroche? (Also WHY did this happen during the dead student music. This is where I want to get emotional seeing the dead adolescents, not having a tender moment with the bad guy?!!!) Anyway, it doesn’t exactly help him stay in villain camp. I don’t need him to be complex. For crying out loud. I need him to be mean. And hell, Norm Lewis is a god among us and he was a wussy Javert, too. So anyway, Russell. His singing? It was not enjoyable which was distracting, but for me more because he didn’t have a terrible instrument– he just didn’t seem properly trained. His diction was a mess. Hire somebody, people. But his lack of energy wasn’t just in his singing. I don’t know whose bad decision it was, so I just ignored him. Until he hit the concrete and sounded like a sack of chicken bones getting stomped on. Then I involuntarily sqawked. Ew. And I think it was followed by some crap editing, if I remember correctly. Oh, but before I leave our "pathetic but not the ruiner everyone is making him" Javert– The Confrontation kicked ass. He actually sounded good.
I don’t think I need to chatter much about Anne Hathaway. It was excellent. It helped that they moved "I Dreamed A Dream" to a more emotionally charged place in the show. I kind of never want to play Fantine unless they find a way to make that possible in the stage version. Like, totally not fair.
Hugh Jackman mostly sounded quite good. I was never horrified. And frankly, I loved his Valjean so much (youngish and skinny though he was) that he kind have could have sucked a little and I wouldn’t have cared. He’s got some funny placement that sometimes thrills me and is surprising in a good way, but sometimes sounds like a tiny tenor leprechaun is trapped behind his face.
Amanda Seyfried sounds like a bird, but it’s Cosette, so whatever.
Young Cosette sang the least annoying “Castle on a Cloud” ever though. And that little West End Gavroche was spunky. lol
The jury seems out on Eddie Redmayne, but he can do no wrong in my book. I was shocked by how good he sounded. Though he moved a little too much at times.
Anyway, his idea to start Empty Chairs” a capella?
Mad credit to you, dude.
And his acting in that song alone made him the most interesting Marius has EVER been for me.
The people I really cared about– the stage veterans.
Oh wait. Before I get there. The Thenardiers.
I had fear when I first saw their demented elf-like costumes. I had greater fear when I heard the highlights recording. It all made sense when I saw it. Loved that it was set at Christmas. Was less bothered by both actors than ever before. And it was funny. I saw why they made the choices vocally and it didn’t make me mad. Good enough. I didn’t really like that Mme did her entire verse as a lap dance, "but, what can you do?"
I mean, there is no audience to play to in a film, so all is forgiven.
So yea, Aaron Tveit.
Even with that cocker-spaniel-scalp on your head you were beautiful. Well, you sounded dynamo, and that’s what I came for really. Enjrolas, you do not disappoint. This is also where I start really liking the changes that they made going back to the book. Grantaire coming and choosing to be executed with his "foil" Enjrolas after everyone else is gone? Absolutely perfect, thank you.
And shot by West End sensation Hadley Fraser– why couldn’t they have just let him be Javert. *le sigh* Alas, they gave the "lesser known" token spots to Aaron and Samantha.
But Hadley was beyond awesome as the Army Captain– "You at the barricades, listen to this!"
Fra Fee is Courfeyrac and then they went and plucked Provaire straight from the concert. Alistair Brammer in the house!
Killian Donnelly is Combeferre. (And he gets to carry his "dead" RL girlfriend away from the barricade. AWW. ? lol)
Former Gavroche, Adam Searles and former Cosette, (I think from the 25th concert) Katie Hall were extras.
I also glimpsed former Eponines, Gemma Wardle and Caroline Sheen and my girl, Linzi Hateley!
Bertie Carvel (who won an Olivier for Parade). . .
was ONE MEAN Bamatabois.
Speaking of mean– that foreman? Yikes. Get it, Michael Jibson. (Who happens to be married to the aformentioned Caroline Sheen. Ain’t Broadway/West End an incestuous little place?)
Thenardier’s gang looked familiar but I haven’t placed them yet . . .
Joly looked familiar, too . . .
And I laughed when the random man I dubbed "Colonel Sanders" appeared out of nowhere. He looked familiar because he was DaVinci in Ever After.
But why the hell did we suddenly need Marius’ rich ass grandfather to bust in?
Other "from the book" excitement?
Eponine hiding the letter and throwing herself in front of the bullet/ Gavroche delivering Marius’ letter to Valjean.
And Gavroche’s elephant!!!!!
I got very excited by these happy little changes. 🙂
I had less care than I thought that they used Frances Ruffelle (original Eponine) as a whore. Nice. But I didn’t care as much as others did. Even more surprising? Because I was obsessed when she got cast? Samantha Barks. I was just way too sad at the lack of belting. I know why. Movie. Acting. BLAHBLAHBLAH. I still love her, but a girl can grieve.
Know what I DIDN’T see? Cameron Macintosh and Claude-Michel Schönberg . They were in there somewhere dammit.
I’m gonna need a bootleg. Or see it a bajillion times in the theatre.
Anything else in particular anybody wants to know?