So sad. How could this go wrong? I was giddy with excitement, especially after the lovely trailer. The seminal musical Les Miserables, finally being made into a film by a good director with a stellar cast. C’mon…that’s an easy formula for success–right? Well, for most people it has worked (and I am in the minority here)–but, for me it failed to capture the magic and beauty of the music–and of even the narrative, for that matter.
Okay, let me state that I love this musical! Actually, it is in truth, an English language opera. There are no spoken words and I have only seen it performed by opera-level singers. Although, I have yet to see it on stage live, I have watched a recording of a stage performance and enjoyed both the 10th and 25th Anniversary concerts (PBS rocks!). That history could be why I had issues with Tom Hooper‘s interpretation.
Let’s begin with the voices–because, honestly, this should be all about the voices. There are three stand-outs, Anne Hathaway (who gives a heart-breaking rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream“, but it was still more “acted” than sang), Eddie Redmayne, who has a strong presence and voice, and Samantha Barks, who actually performed on stage as Eponine–so it is no big surprise that she delivered (to me) the best performance of , what happens to be my favorite song, “On My Own”.
Now, I love Hugh Jackman and respect that he is a song and dance man–he won a Tony for goodness sake! But, Mr. Jackman does NOT have the chops or range to pull off Jean Valjean‘s resounding tenor. Unfortunately, his acting performance (which is wonderful) does not match his singing voice. Most of the time, it sounded shrill and like, well…he was stretching his vocal chords. And then of course, there is Russell Crowe. Oh, Russell Crowe. He CAN NOT sing. Nope. It was painful. Especially, when Inspector Javert is supposed to have an intimidating, strong baritone or bass-baritone. His power and presence is diminished when Crowe’s tiny voice is barely able to do what is expected from the songs. I was looking forward to “The Confrontation” scene and was left deflated. What a let down.
If you are interested in why I have problems–check out these videos with the differences.
Les Miserables 10th Anniversary (HD) – The Confrontation (11/41) – YouTube
Les Misérables – 25th Anniversary – “the confrontation” – YouTube
The Confrontation – Russell Crowe & Hugh Jackman – YouTube
This leads to my other issue–Hooper’s direction. Due to a plethora of close up images and shaky cam action, you lose the grand scope of the period. This is France! This is the Revolution! I got none of that. It looked like a sound stage. I never once felt like I was in France. Oh, well. And yes, it is awesome that he recorded the songs live on set–but, next time he should pick better suited singers–wait, actually…let’s not have a next time, Mr. Hooper. Thanks.
Finally, I felt the 2.5 hour run time. It was over-long and had lost much of its impact by the end. I was just happy to be out and thankful for being able to listen to the original cast recording in my car! Whew!