Being an avid musical theatre goer, watcher, and actor, I was nervous about going. This particular musical theatre show is practically sacred. There have been many worthy productions of Les Mis. Would the movie even compare?
Cutting right to it, I'll tell you. I'm going to buy it the day it comes out. This movie may not be perfection, which on a beloved piece like this may be impossible. It is well done, easily the best movie of the year and wonderful to watch. With music of this caliber and Victor Hugo's epic story, what more could an audience want? The answer might be Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Hugh Jackman for Valjean. For me, it was.
Anne Hathaway (Fantine) stood out as a skilled vocalist as well as a sensational actress. She totally ruined me with "I Dreamed a Dream." My big mistake was forgetting to bring a box of tissue. It should be provided under the seats at a show this emotionally charged and well-delivered.
Hugh Jackman (Valjean) is spectacular. He is such an expressive, honest actor. His voice is beautiful and mostly strong in this most vocally taxing role. The singing doesn't firework the way it does in a live show, but that's more the fault of the medium than the singers. Apparently the singers did perform the songs in the stage space, too, rather than in a sound booth. It's more like a real musical in that way and admirable because it takes way more talent than the sound booth does.
Some of the cinematography was great, like that sweeping moment at the close of "Stars." Russell Crowe's voice was gentler than I hoped for, but really did fit with his portayal of Javert. He and Jackman play well opposite each other.
Amanda Seyfried is adorable as Cosette. Her voice is trilly and young, but fits the character perfectly. I was amazed by how well she, Eponine, and Marius harmonized with such differing timbres.
The chorus is typically stronger in the stage production, again an asset of live performance, along with intermissions. When will movie makers realize that 2 1/2 hours is a long time without a break for the powder room? I vote for movie intermissions.
There were quite a few things that came off better in this medium. Audiences never get to see the actors faces this well. Also, there's more freedom for visual expression, like the blood running in the streets after the battle. There's also time for the singers to rest their voices between musical numbers. Breaktimes must be awesome. That's a mercy live musical singers don't get. I think this is why Cosette's voice wasn't so nasal. No need to protect it for the usual sing-a-thon. Her part in "A Heart Full of Love" can sound a little tinny in the stage version. Here it was rich, full, and one of my favorite moments.
The songs ended abruptly in a few spots. This was especially noticable with "On My Own." It takes a moment or two to recover from a song like that, but since it's a movie, we can just press pause. No big deal.
The good singer who played Eponine was less convincing than the others. Her costuming was pretty girly for the character. It left me wondering why Marius didn't notice her as a woman. On the stage, Eponine really behaved like one of the guys, so it made more sense why Marius thought of her that way.
Marius was brilliant on all counts. One of the strongest singers in the cast, he was also the best actor I've ever seen in the role.
There were a few subtle changes in the musical. The majority were excellent decisions. Charming little Gavrosh sings some historical exposÚ. It works because it's true to the intention of the book. There's a little song in the carriage that Valjean sings to Cosette. Pretty sure that's new, but I loved it.There was a strange decision to make heaven into a big barricade at the end of the movie. It feels peculiar. I guess in Valjean's heaven, everyone is frantically waving French flags. The "Stars" reprise shows up about a scene and half after it's usually sung. Not sure why, but it all flows well.
Everything else was totally amazing, well-produced, and delightfully executed. We all clapped at the end. That only happens in America when people really like a film. I'll be back to see it again in the theater.
I hope everyone goes to the theaters to enjoy this great rendering of Les Miserables.