Friday, December 28, 2012

Longing for the Longshot

So... Les Miserables... the movie...

Before I get into my rant... It IS a good, film.  It's just not as good as it should have been.  (But if you haven't seen the stage play, and you love a good tragedy, you'll love it.)  The acting all around was stellar - I cannot fault the cast on that account.  There were standouts for me.  Anne Hathaway's performance as Fantine made me weep.  Eddie Redmayne's voice and screen presence was fantastic as Marius, and the cameo by Colm Wilkinson?  Delicious!   I gotta say that Amanda Seyfried's Cosette had a beautiful controlled soprano that was not at all grating and Samantha Banks' portrayal of Eponine was exactly what it needed to be.  The trio between Cosette, Marius and Eponine was lovely.

That said...

Please Sir, may I request fewer close-ups?  Too many faces!  There were far too many desperate, crying, puss-filled faces.  I'm praying that there are 6-degrees-of-separation between Tom Hooper and me so that I can get him to re-edit the film with WAY more medium and long shots in it? Please? I'm sure that the set decoration and design for the film was splendid - if only the audience could ever see it.

Rissa pointed out as we left, all depressed and ready to slit our own throats from the pathos, "Well Mummy, it is called The Miserables."  And it was - oh God was it!!  Tragic and dark, near plodding in sections, and just bone-crunchingly SAD.

I've seen the stage version three times.  Not once did I come out of it depressed.  There's something about good live theatre that reaches across the divide and unites an audience.  It is uplifting, driving you to your feet in a truly organic standing ovation.  The film had very little of that.  And why?  Because the vocals, while good (some great - see first paragraph), they were too intimate and lacked the grandeur that the music requires to move the audience.  Yes, Hugh Jackman can sing.  He gave a good vocal performance for the most part, but Bring Him Home was not his best song. He just did not have the vocal control and sweetness to his voice to make that song into what should be one of the most affecting moments in the show.    Eddie Redmayne gave that performance in Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.   Russell Crowe can sing (anyone who says that he tanked vocally is full of crap - if you want to see someone tank vocally watch Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia), but he just doesn't quite have the musical theatre chops to carry Javert's numbers.

In a film version that's 2 1/2 hours long, steeped in tragedy and angst, you really need the comic relief.  REALLY A LOT.  That's why those comic scenes are written into the original musical.  The Thenardier bits just weren't nearly funny nor grand enough to allow the audience that moment to laugh, breathe and prepare for the rest of the pathos.  This again comes back to the TOO MANY CLOSE-UPS.  Onstage the comic scenes rollick, but the film lacked the scope of the stage-picture and the scene suffered as a result.  By and large the trios, quartets, quintets and chorus numbers just didn't cut it because they were overly edited.   You need to SEE Eponine as she watches Marius sing with Cosette - you need the juxtaposition of her WITH them - not a close-up of her in angst.  There was only the smallest of edits that allowed that to happen on film.  On stage, even as people stand at different blocked points representing different locales, they still inhabit the same space for the audience and they sing WITH each other.   Those same scenes on film minimizes the stage picture and take away the magic of the music.

Most accurate and satisfying transfer of a chorus number from stage to film?  The final reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing.   It finally managed to capture the feeling of a true chorus number, and though it had close-ups, it was mostly long and medium shots.

I would watch certain parts of the film over and over again.  Those moments are brilliant.  Other parts?  Not so much.  Before seeing the film, I assured a friend that I would watch it with her again, now I'm not so sure - with its grime and its pacing and its weeping it was all too.... Miserable.

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