Saturday, 12 January 2013

Les Miserables - splendid cinema if you like that kind of thing



It's 24 hours since I went to see Les Miserables and the songs are still marching around my head which must go to show something. 

I can't remember being this excited about a film in a mighty long time, if not ever. I love Les Mis and have seen it on stage a few times and often listen to the soundtrack when no one's looking. I'm not one of your Johnny-Come-Latelys who found it after Susan Boyle I Dreamed A Dream an international hit. 

It's a long old movie - three hours from billed start time to the end including Kevin Bacon ads - but I didn't get restless, not one bit. And once it was finished there was a gasp from the audience and spontaneous applause. I'm sure - numb bumbs aside - quite a few of us would have been happy to stay for a second showing. 

The movie version milked every bit of emotional intensity from an already full-on musical. Close ups and lots of very realistic poverty and filth added to the mix. Oddly, seeing huge faces singing at you from a middle row of an auditorium create a very intimate experience. 

Hugh Jackman is a revelation. By his own admission not the best singer, he powers through as Jean Valjean. Believable as convict, desperate former convict, redeemed former convict and, eventually, old man. You do need to forgive him a dodgy David Essex-style 'do' in his middle years. 

Russell Crowe's Javert is on the button except in the big singy numbers. Crowe's voice is surprisingly soft and sweet, at odds with the dogged plod he plays. 

Anne Hathaway is as fantastic as anticipated, it's a shame she has to expire before the thing properly gets going. 

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) is a bit meh, but it's not really her fault. Whatever version  you choose she's a fairly pointless bit of froth. She does cry prettily though. If I was in charge I'd find some way to get her out of the big frocks and up onto the barricades, or at any rate somewhere useful.

Anyhow, I was determined not to bang on, so if you're a Glums fan - go and see this now. You won't regret it. But you do have to be prepared to make allowances for moments of (usually Cosette-related) cheesiness and some utterly bewildering vocals from Sacha Baron Cohen. In Thenardier, SBC has been handed one of the best parts in the history of musical theatre yet he manages to make a bit of a pig's ear of it. I know it's a long film, but the rule of pick an accent and stick to it still applies. 

Take Kleenex, and don't forget to go for a wee before it starts. Let me know what you think. 

5 comments:

  1. I saw this last night, loved it! I first discovered Les Miserables as a teenager about 20 years ago so I'm very familiar with the songs and I was worried about how the film would turn out, but I needn't have been.The only bit I wasn't sure about was Russell Crowe, I thought he didn't put as much passion or emotion into the singing as he could have, although at least he was in tune. I thought that I Dreamed a Dream was fantastic, and seemed to be all shot in one take! I don't know if you've read the book, I struggled through it (although must admit I skipped a few bits). I thought that the film worked really well as an adaptation of the book too, there were a few extras added in from the stage show that explained relationships between characters and filled out the story a bit.

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    1. I agree I think RC isn't really much of a singer - I would rather have had a bit more guts to his songs even if he did lose the tune.
      I did wonder how easy it would be to follow this if you didn't know the show. My 13YO came with me and he seemed to have no trouble.

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  2. Do you think you could take kids to see it? H(11)would like to come with me but I@m not sure it's suitable...

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    1. Jacq, I went with Boy 1 who is 13 and he said he enjoyed it. He did get a bit wriggly in the middle.
      The prostitute scene might be a bit near the knuckle. It's not explicit but the suggestion is fairly frank.

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  3. I loved it too, Ellen, but I reckon it is too long. I was completely gripped during the first half, but didn't think the second half was so brilliant.

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