Thursday, February 7, 2013

Some thoughts on the 'Les Miz' Movie

So I was finally able to catch the Les Miz movie! Unlike Singaporeans which got to see it during Christmas, the movie will only open in Taiwan during CNY holidays. Thank goodness there are still theatres screening it here. By now I suppose everyone who has wanted to see it has already done so and have read all the publicity about it: how all the singing is done live, how wonderful Anne Hathaway was and how much Russell Crowe sucked, so I'm not going to write a review, but here are some thoughts that crossed my mind:

1) Victor Hugo wasn't kidding about the 'Miserables' bit, its not 'Les Somewhat Depressed' or 'Les Having a REALLY Bad Day'. No, these characters are truly as miserable as anyone can be!

2) That cup of teh-peng before the movie was not a good idea. I thought I wouldn't miss much if I made a quick trip to the washroom during Drink With Me, only to return and find Hugh Jackman/Valjean halfway through Bring Him Home. Arggh!

3) The musical director and his team deserve every award they can get for creating a coherent musical soundtrack from all that rhythm-free sprechgesang / speech-singing. A lesser accompanist would have had a stroke if his singer were to pull such tricks with the musical lines as they did.

4) It was wonderful in the way that only a movie version of the musical could be, and every bit as heart-rending (bring tissues). Still the production team has pulled every stop to ensure a classic in the making: investing in huge sets, CGI effects and a truly all-star cast: when even the Thenadiers are played by such marquee names as Helena Bonham Carter and 'Borat' Sasha Baron Cohen, you know the creative team is not doing things half-heartedly.

5a) Now I've already shed enough tears at Fantine's tragic fate over the years, so I wasn't going to get all maudlin this time round (Anne Hathaway is fantastic as always even when playing such diverse but equally iconic roles such as Fantine and Catwoman), but what hit me unexpectedly was the new song for Valjean, in which he ponders his new life as an adoptive father to young Cosette while on the run as a fugitive  Also strangely enough, Do You Hear the People Sing got me quite emotional too, the way everyone starts singing simultaneously, a capella, which then builds up into the great anthem that we are all familiar with.

5b) Fantine had to sell her TEETH!?!? Eeewww!!!

6) Grown-up Cosette is such a bimbotic role! Really her purpose to the plot is simply to fall in love with Marius so that Valjean would save him. Huh!?

6) I love the new arrangement to Stars! It has a subtly sinister quality that gave an edge to Jarvert's 'aria' that wasn't in the original. Too bad Russell Crowe had to croon his way through like a choirboy. This was the only misstep in casting but a great one, since we see Jarvert right from the start of the movie/musical. Someone should have told him that being in a band does not necessarily make you a good singing-actor.

7) Prior to watching I've read that Colm Wilkinson makes a cameo appearance, so throughout the movie I kept wondering where he was and whether I have missed it. And there he was at the very last scene, all decked out in religious wear and ready to welcome Hugh Jackman into the hallowed hall of great Valjeans. He has already made two videos and two recordings of his portrayal so I guess he's not even slightly bitter for not being considered this time round. I read that the original Eponine also made an appearance as one of the whores, but since I don't know who she is I don't really care about that (yeah I admit it! Lea Salonga is the original Eponine as far as I'm concerned).

Here's Anne Hathaway promoting Les Miz on talkshow Chelsea Lately, where she discusses how making the film almost drove her husband crazy, and why she said the 'F' word to Daniel Craig:

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