Les Miserable

lesmisI so much wanted to enjoy this film. However, it ends up being yet another reason why musicals should never be made into movies.

First the good. I enjoyed the last few minutes of the Epilogue where the chorus sings the reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing.” During the reprise, the camera pans across a large crowd on the “other side” of the wall. It was an effective moment when the visual connected with the emotion and music. This music was likely “recorded” in the studio since it didn’t sound like the crowd of thousands singing along. The crowd, which looked huge, may have even been the result of digital editing.

The things I didn’t like…just a few. The orchestrations had too much of a movie studio feel for my liking. During some of the early numbers, the orchestration was too subdued under the vocals. I prefer the original orchestrations (and vocals for that matter) that are preserved on the complete symphonic recording from 1988/2004.

I am not a movie goer. (I can’t remember the last movie I saw.) But I found the cinematography in the early part of the film to be jarring. Maybe it was because I was sitting too close. (The theater was rather crowded even though I ordered my ticket early and still had to wait in line.)

But the main reasons for not liking this film are the vocals and the stunt casting. Les Miserable is a musical. If the musical aspect of the production does not come off well, the whole form falls apart. Such is the case of turning most musicals into films. (Chicago is an example of a musical that came close to transferring to film, I think.) These are not great singers. Russell Crowe can’t sing three notes without having to take a breath, and Hugh Jackman’s nasal tone and wide vibrato become annoying early in the film. These two guys were not hired for their musical artistry. (OK, Hugh Jackman is a good showman on stage, but I didn’t think he was any good in this film.) They were hired because of the box office draw. As with most musicals that go film, cashing in on the economic scalability of “star” performers takes precedence over artistry. I actually laughed several times during the film when Crowe and Jackman were singing the recitatives back and forth between each other. I couldn’t believe these were real characters – Valjean and Javert. They were Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman tittering back and forth. And it seemed ridiculous.

This film is a disappointment.

By Randy Ziegenfuss Posted in Film

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