Movie Review: Les Misérables

(Originally posted January 3, 2013)

Welcome to my first blog post of 2013! I decided to bring in the new years blogging with another first, my first ever Movie Review. My friend and I went out to see Les Misérables on Christmas night. It was my first time going to a movie on Christmas and it was a lot of fun, no wonder it is such a popular tradition.

For my 18th birthday my brother bought my twin sister, parents, and I all tickets to go see Les Misérables in Pittsburgh at The Benedum Theater. I remember listening to music from Les Mis for years before and always liking it. Even though we were in the nose bleed section of the theater (absolute last row of the place), I remember leaving there being amazed and from then on calling Les Misérables my favorite musical I’ve ever seen.

I was ecstatic to find out a movie version of the musical was coming out. I thought it was going to blow me away, at least I was hoping it would. With all of the hype going on about the upcoming film, I was thinking it was going to be a great tribute to the smash hit musical, unfortunately I was only partially right.

With the musical version of Les Misérables I feel that the character’s voices are what make or break the experience. The songs are so powerful with their lyrics so it really takes people with a high level of skill to stand up to the job. To my surprise the singing was (for the most part) non impressive. As far as acting goes, everyone did a great job, it was the singing that really bothered me the most, the entire thing is singing, so that was a big let down.

Russell Crowe was definitely wrong for the role of Javert (in the musical anyway), I didn’t feel his singing to be up to par for the part, in fact far from it. I thought his acting was the worst out of anyone in the movie, he didn’t show as much emotion or get into the role as much as I think the other actors did. To me Javert needs a powerful far ranging voice, and Crowe just didn’t get there. I really thought I would enjoy Hugh Jackman in the role of Jean Valjean, and I did, but again the singing really brought the whole character down a bit for me, but he did a great job getting into the role and making it stand out as a powerful performance. Out of the women I thought Anne Hathaway’s (Fantine) acting was the best, but Samantha Barks (Éponine) was the best female singing role. Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) was my favorite overall character as far as the singing roles went. Marius (Eddie Redmayne) came in as my second favorite singing role of the film, although I think the roles of Marius and Enjolras should have been switched since Marius is a bigger role.

In a way I wish they would of cast more Broadway actors/actresses in this movie because I didn’t feel like those cast were able to pull off the singing roles that the characters, storyline, and music call for, but at the same time, I don’t think that Broadway actors could of lived up to the level of acting portrayed. There has to be actors out there who could of followed through with both roles (as singer and actor) and gotten the job done better.

I’m glad that they filmed the singing parts live, I feel that brought out a lot of raw emotions that really brought the characters to a whole new level, especially when Fantine was singing “I Dreamed A Dream” that was a really powerful scene and I thought Anne Hathaway did a great job.

Another thing that really took away from it being a movie was the sets and the way that it was filmed. They could have been a lot more grand and extensive; to me they just seemed like a set on a stage just like the actual play. Especially the set where all the fighting was taking place, it was just a pile of furniture. The set that did impress me was the shipyard that looked like a more modern take on the scene than the play. They way they filmed up close shots of the actors constantly really took away from the aspect of it being a movie, it made it seem like more of a performance.

All in all I think that it would have been cast perfectly if it were a movie version of Les Misérables (but hey that’s been done before, and very well done, so why do it again?) and not a movie version of the musical. If I had to rate Les Misérables I would give it two and a half out of five stars. Take away one for the singing, one for the set design, and a half for the way it was filmed.

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