Hello and HAPPY NEW YEAR, fine readers of this blog! Kevin has asked me to review Les Misérables (Les Mis) for you. Perhaps it’s because I’m a music school dropout or that I make my living in the OTHER music theater genre (opera) or maybe it’s because I’m a former singer of absolutely ZERO renown that makes me uniquely qualified for this task. But I’m willing to bet that it’s actually because I’m the only one who saw the damn movie. Either way, who cares! I’m here, you’re here, let’s do this!
Les Mis (Schönberg/Boublil) is a musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. Like the name implies, Les Mis is not a happy story. In fact it’s many unhappy stories (heartbreak, loneliness, unrequited love, death, poverty, broken dreams and war, to name but a few awful and very, very sad things) woven together. Sounds awesome, right? Throw in some amazingly epic song and dance numbers and a huge chorus and orchestra and you’ve got the recipe for THE PERFECT MUSICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I admit that I was a little nervous about a film adaptation…it just seemed too ambitious. But I am happy to report that for the most part, the movie got it right. All the emotion, all the sweeping epic-ness is there and the cinematography is GORGEOUS. This is a pretty, pretty movie, people.
Now, when it comes to singing, I am admittedly a VERY TOUGH critic. I like perfection and that’s pretty much it. And I knew going into the movie theater that there would be some less than perfect voices, but I was sincerely hoping that those who couldn’t sing were chosen for their acting ability. Some casting choices worked and others did not. I’ll now rate the singing from the awesome to the abysmal:
Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) – Aaron has one of my favorite musical theater voices, brilliant and clear. He’s also a fantastic actor. The whole package. My only wish was that he had more screen time.
Eddie Redmayne (Marius) – DAMN. He can sing AND he can cry on cue AND he’s cute? Hello, new celebrity boyfriend!
Samantha Barks (Éponine) – Barks has a beautiful voice and is a fine actor. I recognized her from the 25th anniversary special that’s on PBS every five minutes. You know, the special that I watch EVERY SINGLE TIME it’s on regardless of whether or not I have 6 free hours to spare? Yeah, that one.
Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) – I can forgive a slightly less than perfect voice here because Jackman’s acting was TREMENDOUS. First of all, Valjean’s music is impossible. It requires an amazing range that few people can pull off. And Jackman did it. He over sang, yes, but who cares? He absolutely sold the role and his performance was breathtaking.
Anne Hathaway (Fantine) – Though hers isn’t my favorite voice (I find her pretty brassy and pitch has always been a problem) she can carry a tune and as was the case with Jackman, her acting surpassed her singing so I didn’t mind.
Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier) – There’s little Cohen can’t do and his singing was fine. But as we all know, his true gift is comedic timing. And he does not disappoint in his portrayal of the cheating and thieving innkeeper.
Amanda Seyfriend (Cosette) – Oh honey, no. NO NO NO. You certainly look the part and your acting is ok, but YOU CANNOT SING! YOU CANNOT HIT THOSE NOTES! WHAT IS THAT NOISE COMING FROM YOUR MOUTH? AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! WHY, CASTING DIRECTOR, WHY?!??!?!?!?!
Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thénardier) – Please stop casting her in every movie adaptation of a musical crazy female role! She butchered Mrs. Lovett in Burton’s Sweeney Todd (I DON’T CARE IF JESSICA FLETCHER IS 900 YEARS OLD! SHE COULD HAVE DONE IT IN HER SLEEP! AND CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE HER PLAYING OPPOSITE JOHNNY DEPP!???!?!?!?) Anyway, Carter plays the same role in every movie. And she cannot sing. Enough already.
Russell Crowe (Javert) – I knew from the previews that he couldn’t sing, but I was betting on his acting to pull him through. But there was nothing compelling about his performance, which was such a disappointment because the character is so multi-faceted. My cat Vern could have done better. Maybe I’ll take a video the next time we’re screaming along to the original London cast recording from 1985 which we do like ALL OF THE TIME and send it to Mr. Crowe along with a note from Vern that says “SEE? THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE!”.
I told you I was a harsh critic.
But really, even the few subpar performances couldn’t take away from the magic of the whole. All in all, the movie was every bit the emotional experience I was hoping for. I cried about 95 times. In the first 20 minutes. Pack a box of kleenex, friends. You’re going to need it.kate ehle
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