Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miserables

So maybe this will be a new thing for me, movie reviews.  I've had my Letterboxd account for a while, but never really thought to post my reviews on my blog.  We'll try it out and see.  Besides, I'm not even sure many people read my blog anymore ;)

My review for Les Mis won't be the most popular among some of my friends, but honestly, it was just poor filmmaking.  There were some great emotional moments, but the majority of the film fell short in my opinion.  Read my review below:


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Being a huge lover of musical theatre, I had high standards for this film. Being a fan of Hugo's novel, I hoped they would truly capture the tone of the work and not Hollywood-ize it. Tom Hooper's direction did fulfill the latter, but not so much the former. It was gritty, it was desolate, injustice was looming, but grace and mercy prevailing. I loved the musical theatre "nod" by casting Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop who sets Valjean on the right path. Though it was weird to have him sing in the trio at the end instead of Eponine. That is one of the most beautifully sung parts of the narrative, and it was awkward. Part of that had to do with Tom Hooper's direction and cinematography...

What was with the shaky cam close ups and quick cuts?! I felt like I was part of a Google Hangout - whoever is talking/singing, the camera is going to cut to a close up of your face now. The only time it really worked was during "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own," and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Hooper never gives us more than 3 seconds of a framed shot before awkwardly cutting to a different shot of a face. Very weird. It was like he was trying TOO hard to be artistic, and the end result was a reckless mishmash of camera angles.
Now, I never thought I'd say this (since she irks me and is a highly overrated actress), but Anne Hathaway completely sold her role as Fantine. Upon hearing her timid "singing" in the trailers, I was extremely skeptical, but her performance was truly the most raw and passionate of all the actors. The remaining strength of the cast came from Aaron Tviet, Eddie Redmayne, and Samantha Barks as Enjolras, Marius, and Eponine, respectively, who all sang like true professionals in their roles. And as usual, I was blown away by the child actors, young Cosette and Gavroche (one of my favorite characters from the musical) were excellent.
"Are you not entertained?!?!" No, Mr. Crowe, I was not. Javert is a calculated military man with a blind adherence to the law which causes him to struggle internally with what justice truly is, and Russell Crowe played him like a lazy puppet. I never once thought he was commanding or in control, it was almost as if fear of singing on screen inhibited his acting abilities. He was definitely the weak link. Hugh Jackman was only so-so, which surprised me, since I know he has the musical theatre chops to pull off the role of Valjean. Again, I think a lot of the faults had to do with the film editing and the sound mix.
I truly commend the filmmakers for choosing to have the cast sing live on film. It adds more emotion to their performances and (if done well) connects to the audience in a real way. However, most of the time, it sounded like the actors were just "speak-singing" a random melody because the orchestra wasn't present. The sound mixing was terrible in this film. It's as if they ran out of time to record the accompaniment and sloppily added it in at the last minute. If you are filming a musical, the music should be a huge focus. Boubil and Schonberg wrote beautiful melodies over an emotional orchestral score. This film did not highlight that at all. I feel like a lot of the faults of the vocals in some parts would have been resolved if the balance with the score was better. "Bring Him Home" sounded too brash instead of tender, because there was little to no accompaniment behind him.
I was asked "would you buy the DVD/BluRay when it comes out?" and the answer is definitely no. There was nothing in this film that made it a great piece of film. The poor cinematography and bad mixing were really huge detractors for me. If I want my Les Mis fix, I'll stick with my copy of the unbeatable 10th Anniversary Concert Cast.

Five-Star Rating: 

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