I wasn't sure if I should post this here or in the bad reviews thread, but after all the positive hype for this new Le Miz, I was shocked to get my Entertainment Weekly in the mail and see this downer of a review:
Lines like "made me long for the gullotines" and "longer that the 1832 Paris uprising that it depicts" ... generally pans the male singers. Great crack about Crowe's "Cap'n Crunch wardrobe." Overall grade of C -- which if you read Entertainment Weekly, you know is an impossibly bad grade. They give the worst trash nothing lower than a B.
Saw that Richard Corliss of Time (a review I respect) also panned it.
I can't say this will stop me from seeing it, but I have to admit that I'm not as anxious to hit the theater as I was. Maybe I can wait until after New Year's.
By the way, it is worth noting that Les Mis scored a bunch of Golden Globe nominations just a couple days ago -- including Best Pic (Comedy/Musical). Which might lead most of you to think that it is a strong Oscar contender and one of the best films of the year. But, the Hollywood Foreign Press, the folks who do the Golden Globe Awards, are a ridiculously corrupt organization and it is not at all unlikely that they voted it in because of intense lobbying (and perhaps even bribes). Heck, it is possible the HFP voters did not even see the movie before casting their ballots for it.
We'll see, but my passion for this film has been ratcheted down several notches in recent days. Pity...
-Jason "the reality may simply be that this story, in this format, is borderline unfilmable" Evans
This excerpt from the cited article might allow some insight into the perspective of the reviewer (I wonder if she ever even saw the stage production??):
"But this steam-driven military weapon of an enterprise is a sobering reminder of just how tinny a musical Les Misérables was in the first place — the listless music and lyrics by Alain Boubil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Herbert Kretzmer, the derivative characters fashioned from Oliver! scraps."
I am not aware of anyone who would characterize the world-wide stage phenomenon, now popular for more than 25 years, as "tinny" or its music/lyrics as "listless."
But everyone is certainly entitled to their personal opinions.
Look. People that haven't seen Les Mis musical and are inclined against musicals, or heartless losers that dont like the musical after having seen it, won't like the movie. They are wrong, but that's ok.
I hate goofy broadway stuff. Chicago and Phantom are dumb. This is different. It's ok that there are lesser people in the world that will think this is not a good movie. We need charity cases to feel sorry for. But for those of us in the right, this is likely going to be awesome.
Seriously, though. I have high hopes. The bad review I've seen are from folks that weren't gonna like this in the first place. I may be lucky enough to see it on Tuesday. If I do, I will report back.
Last edited by JBDuke; 12-16-2012 at 01:01 AM. Reason: removed language filter
And while I share your skepticism for the Entertainment Weekly review -- it's a puff magazine that's barely a step up from People or Us -- I take the Richard Corliss pan a bit more seriously. In my experience, he's one of the best critcs out there.
As suspected, if you aren't inclined to musicals or aren't a huge fan of this one in particular, I don't think it does a ton to pull anyone over on to the other side of the fence.
That said, I thought it was, with a few obvious and not so minor flaws, pretty damn good.
There may be some spoilers here, so be forewarned to the extent you need to be.
- Let's get it out of the way. Russell Crowe isn't good in this. Not only is his voice the weakest in the whole cast, he is pretty damn wooden, too. It was Javert on Xanax. He starts to come around when he's behind the barricades and when he lets Valjean go, but I thought the suicide solo reverted back to the original problems. I initially thought this was inspired casting, but Crowe blew it.
- I thought the direction was outstanding. The scenes where the funeral was overtaken, the barricade was built, and the end epilogue song were all pulled off really, really well. All of the ensemble scenes worked in the context of the movie, which is hard to do. "One Day More" was pretty damn stirring.
- As everyone is saying, Hathaway steals the show. There has never been an "I Dreamed a Dream" performance as good as this one, all apologies to Lea Salonga. You just can't do what she did on stage.
- Samantha Barks was really good too as Eponine, but was severely short changed when they mucked with the plot of the play (not sure re: book) a bit and dropped some of her lines. Wasn't the star turning performance I thought it might be because she wasn't in it as much.
- Redmayne and Seyfried were really really good. Better than expected. I can give or take both of those parts, but Seyfried was as good as any Cosette I'd seen on stage (the part leaves a lot to be desired). Redmayne was inspired casting as well.
- SBC and HBC were great as the Thernadiers. "Master of the House" was the most like the play in that it was kinda breaking the 4th wall a bit (or seemed to). But I thought they did a great job.
- They added several scenes, and at least one character, from the book that weren't in the play. I guess that's fine.
I'll give it 3.5 out of 4. Wasn't perfect, and could have been better, but definitely a very admirable job that shouldn't disappoint fans of the play that aren't strict constructionists.
Nonethless, BD80's link is hilarious.
"With seven national titles and 20 Final Fours in the 64-team NCAA Tournament era, Duke and UNC have had more playoff success than any other CONFERENCE." - Al Featherston
I caught a screening last night as well. I echo almost everything A-Tex said.
You simply must be a fan of musicals to enjoy this film. There are no more than a half dozen lines that are not sung in the movie. I think that will limit its appeal a bit.
It is an ambitious and impressive staging of this broad story. Without the walls of a theater stage to confine you, the presentation is magnificent. The opening scene with the boat being drug into drydock actually drew applause from the audience. The overhead views of Paris as well as the revolution are awesome. Tom Hooper would be a deserving Best Director nominee as the scope of the story is truly impressive.
I am not a big crier in movies, but when Hathaway sings "I Dreamed a Dream," it brought tears to my cheek. As she finished the song, I turned to my wife and said, "that's the most powerful 5 minutes I have seen on film this year." It was breathtaking. She deserves every ounce of praise coming her way.
I adored Sasha Baron Cohen. He steals every single scene he is in. Master of the House was my second favorite part of the movie next to Hathaway's Dream.
I was a bit blaah on the rest of the cast. They were fine. Their voices were good, but nobody really inspired me all that much. I thought Jackman was very good for the first half of the movie, but I didn't particularly care for his character or his performance in the back half of the film. Crowe was doing his best, but was badly miscast. A-Tex is right that Crowe is best when he goes undercover behind the barricade. Most of the rest of the time he is stiff and unmoving... ugh! Unlike A-Tex, I didn't get really into Redmayne or Seyfried. It isn't really their fault as much as it was the fault of the story that, to me, fails to make them really compelling characters. Heck, I was dying to yell at Marius to wake up and fall for Eponine, who came across as beautiful and loving and so much more interesting than Cosette.
I want to add one more thing about the acting; the child actors are universally outstanding in this movie, especially Daniel Huttlestone as the street urchin Gavroche. He's fabulous. He played the role on the London stage and has it down pat.
I did find the film a bit long. It runs 2 hours and 40 minutes, pretty close to what the stage production runs in most theaters. It felt like it wanted to end 2 or 3 times before it actually did end. I know, I know, it was just following the plot and story of the play, but I was fidgeting in my seat a lot and so was my wife. We must have checked our watches 3 or 4 times. The overall effect was to make the second half of the movie far less enjoyable to me. Look, there is a reason the stage production almost always has an intermission (also giving the actors' voices a rest and getting new sets ready). The movie had no intermission and I was aching for it to end by the time it finally did.
-Jason "fans will adore it, non-fans will appreciate it and it is a strong Oscar contender... if only it had been 20 minutes shorter" Evans
I am finding out that many of the movie's deterrences from the play are actually more loyal to the book -- most specifically the whole Cosette/Marius/Eponine/Gavroche letter sequence and *spoiler* Eponine's death (which I disparaged a bit above).
The powderkeg scene with Marius is also from the book, as is his grandfather's character.
Couldn't tell, Jason, from your review if you've seen the musical. Except for Michael Ball as the original Marius, Marius and Cosette are pretty much insufferable characters in the stage play, with Nick Jonas as the nadir in the 25th anniversary concert. I thought they come off much better in the movie, especially Marius.
--Jason "Nick Jonas as Marius... ouch!" Evans
In addition to four tickets for 25 Dec, I looked this morning and the album is on Spotify and iTunes. Pick your preference :-)
Saw it tonight. Admit I am a Les Mis fan (have seen it in London and NY, had seen all of the anny productions and own at least 4 versions of the recording), but I loved every second of it. (I am also nowhere near the expert that a number on this forum are.)
Hathaway steals the show; her 5 minutes, as Jason said, were overwhelming. (First tissue)
Her death was powerful (second tissue)
Eponine has always been my favorite character, Barks plays her beautifully. On My Own and ger death scene also powerful. (third tissue)
The closing scene with the death of Valjean was also well done between the real (Cosette and Marius) and dream (Fantine, the students, the Monsignor, et. al.) (fourth tissue)
I was prepared to hate Crowe based on past parts and the reviews. I actually liked his portrayal. I always though Javert was a driven, rigid, almost mechanical personality. His singing wasn't great, but he had no need to fill a theater like on stage.
In all, while longish, I loved the movie and thought it worth the wait.
Enjoyed the nod at the end with the Bishop and Valjean. Transfer of the torch? :-)
My wife and I, adult son, two adult daughters (one of whom is T'03) and oldest daughter's current flame, saw Les Miz at a Christmas Day matinee. All but one, T'03 of course, had seen at least one version of the stage presentation. That daughter has been a stage singer and was very familiar with the music.
It is fair to say that everyone was positive about it. We agree with everybody who has commented that Hathaway stole the show early. That creates a bit of a problem for the rest of the film because her number set the standard for the scenes and songs which followed. Of course, that meant that everyone else had a high bar to get over. Still, I felt that Jackman was a strong presence and sang much better than I expected. Nor did we see the criticism of Crowe as entirely valid. He's playing a rigid policeman; we saw the same issue in the play and simply think that is the way the director wanted it. We absolutely loved young Cosette, Isabelle Allen. And we also loved the other child lead, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche.
As for the Thenardiers, Cohen and Carter were far better than I expected. They played the parts differently, less clownish and more crooked than I recall from the play. Funny, to be sure, but with a bit more Snidely Whiplash faux menace. They sang very well as cartoons and put a different patina on their characters. Seyfreid as Cosette and Barks as Eponine were also quite good, even as their ingénue characters are a bit undeveloped. Ingénues often suffer that criticism due to their callowness.
Finally, I think that Redmayne and Tveit are stars on the rise. Redmayne showed something earlier this year in My Week with Marilyn. Tveit seems to have a Robert Redford feel (and look) about him. That they can sing well is a real bonus.
One can complain about Hugo, if one wants to snipe at the story line, but that's an issue entirely separate from viewing the film as today's entertainment.
All in all, a fine way to spend an afternoon or evening. The music is familiar and the lyrics (even with some movie adjustments) are beautiful. As I left the theater, I had the same positive feelings I had when I left Madonna's Evita. I felt really good about the experience and I wondered who could have done it any better. Our audience started some applause along the way and at the end, but it faltered both times. I didn't feel that strongly, mainly because it is a rare movie that deserves applause. (Why bother if there are no live actors?) It could have been deserved if it had been live. So while I wasn't blown away by this film, it is certainly worth seeing.
First, a confession that would likely result in some tomatoes thrown my way: I had never seen Les Mis, and knew next to nothing of the plot before settling into the movie theatre on Tuesday.
Second: I found myself entirely wrapped up in this tale. I was stirred, in particular, by the aforementioned rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," which I had never heard in its entirety. Hathaway's expressive face, large mouth and wandering eyes provided a jarring setting for this expression of a dream deferred. I say "setting" purposefully, as the camera pays no heed to anything around the actress. Her face, her remaining hair, her voice, all perfectly complement the lyrics. This is what makes going to the movies worthwhile.
In retrospect, this particular song and this particular performance will resonate in our tough economic times with far too many. Hathaway seems to channel what far too many are experiencing, and says and shows it all better than perhaps any of us mortals ever could.
Third: I will mention a scene and song that have stuck with me more than the rest. I don't know the name of it, but it was the back and forth between the schoolboys and Marius--"red" and "black" and the dueling points over revolution of the people or revolution of a young man's heart.
Fourth: I know little of acting beyond my own amateur opinions (as the above likely reveals), but I found Russell Crowe's performance to be so expressionless that I wondered how such a mistake could have been made. I understand the interpretation that he was playing a wooden character; but surely even a rigic policeman moves his brows and eyes when emotional.
I will close with a question for those of you that know the book and musical: what broader story is being told here? (Beware: Spoilers).
Was Valjean a prodigal son? Or a Jesus-like figure? I found myself attempting to navigate the religious imagery from the moment he is ordered to carry the flag, to carrying the burden of raising the young girl, and sacrificing the freedom he might have had.
Film critic David Edelstein thoroughly panned this movie. I think he called it "transcendentally tasteless" and "ghastly". I don't really enjoy musicals either in the theatre or on the big screen so I was never going to see it. You can hear his review on the best of 2012 podcast from "Fresh Air" on NPR.
Thanks to my Mom and Dad being up for the holidays, my wife and I went to see Les Mis Sunday night.
I've seen it on stage three times, she'd seen it once. We're both musical theater fans in general, and were both pretty excited to see it. It's also one of, if not my favorite books.
We both really enjoyed it. It's not a perfect film, but we thought it was pretty darn good. Visually, it was stunning. Others have mentioned many of the great visuals -- the opening, Hathaway's fall as Fantine, the barracade, the finale. I thought the shot of Crowe awaiting Valjean and Marius as Valjean finally escaped from the sewers as particularly good too.
We both thought Hathaway was excellent. My wife liked Jackman's peformance a bit more than I did. I thought Redmayne was very, very good as Marius and agree with the poster above who suggested he's headed for bigger things. SBC and HBC were fantastic.
As for Crowe, his voice was adequate, I thought. The rest of his performance was fine in both my opinion and that of my wife's. Javert is soulless and unbending. He's the living embodiment of the law, or at least the law as he sees it, which shows no mercy and cannot make an exception no matter the circumstance. There was emotion when he let down his guard and admitted his past to Valjean, and there certainly was emotion after Valjean had spared him. Otherwise, Crowe's demeanor -- unmoved, menacing, relentless -- worked, we thought. It makes Valjean's running make sense in context too. Javert couldn't be bought off. He wouldn't rest. He would never let Valjean be at ease.
We'd probably go again, but for that pesky lack of babysitters -- my parents head back to Florida tomorrow -- but we've recommended it to our parents and friends who have asked. It's well worth the time and money.
Finally got to see "Les Miserables" this weekend. I'll echo a lot of what Chicago 1995 says in his review.
I'm a big fan of musicals - both stage and movie versions - as is my wife. I also have seen "Les Miz" 3 times on stage, plus I've watched the 10th anniversary and 25th anniversary concerts. It's one of my favorites of all time.
I liked the movie a lot, as did my wife. I'm not sure it could have been done much better. Yes, if you're not a fan of musicals, you probably won't like this picture, although it's pretty visually stunning, so I think a viewer could enjoy it on that level alone. And I think the acting was excellent as well, so there's that. But given the near-constant singing, if you don't like characters breaking out into song, you're pretty much screwed.
However, if you like the stage version, I think you'll enjoy the movie. And if you're not familiar with the stage production, but you like musicals, I think you'd enjoy it too. (But who the heck likes muscials and HASN'T seen Les Miz...?)
Just to put my own spin on some of the commentary, here are my thoughts:
Great musicals are often difficult to translate to the screen. Film and stage are such different mediums that what works well in one environment in not necessarily guaranteed to work well in the other. For me, and I suspect for many others, movies are a more immersive experience. It's easier for me to suspend disbelief and let myself get carried away into the projected screen. Stage actors need to be able to project. They have to act more broadly, as subtleties are lost on an audience that is often a hundred or more feet away from the stage. Movie actors can act small and still pack a big wallop, because the camera can bring the audience so close to them.
What does all this lead to? Well, for me, it means that for a stage musical to be really, really good, the key is the music. I don't need a gorgeous leading lady or a handsome leading man, and I don't need them to be able to convey emotion with small subtleties. What I want is someone that can deliver a song with the utmost of skill. In "Les Miz", for example, there are a couple of big chorus numbers - "Work Song"/"Look Down", "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "One Day More" - that work great with a big chorus. But the most powerful works are the solos/duets from the main characters - "I Dreamed a Dream", "Who Am I?", "Stars", "The Confrontation", "A Heart Full of Love", "On My Own" and "Bring Him Home". For those solos/duets to work well on stage, they need to be well-delivered, often powerfully, by excellent voices. The emotion of these songs is carried, at least in part, by the power of their delivery.
Well, in a movie, you can carry that emotion in a much different manner. Tom Hooper (the director) chose to have his characters sing while acting out the scenes. That was a great choice, and helps cement the film as distinct from the stage play. Now, instead of having Fantine belt out "I Dreamed a Dream", we get Anne Hathaway delivering it almost in a whisper at times. The setting and her acting ability made it the most powerful version of that song I've ever seen. The same with "Who Am I?" Seeing Jackman sing this to himself, often very quietly, as he ponders his fate, worked amazingly well for me. Hathaway and Jackman have fine voices, but they probably would be well down the list of the other voices I've heard sing those songs, from a purely vocal quality/power perspective. But Hooper's choice and these actors' ability to ACT while singing these songs made them extremely powerful scenes in the movie.
Now, as to Russell Crowe. I don't think Hooper handled him well. Crowe was one of the weaker singers in the cast, IMO. But he's a really good actor, and he did a masterful job of acting Javert. Where he fell short a bit was in singing Javert's songs. But Hooper didn't help him very much, either. Javert's big numbers are "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide". Hooper didn't figure out a way to allow Crowe to sing these songs small, like he did for "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Who Am I?". If he had, I suspect Crowe could have carried them off. But I can't even THINK of a way that you could stage "Stars" in that small fashion. "Stars" is Javert swearing with all his passion that he will pursue Valjean to the end of his days. It really does call for a big, powerful, baritone voice to sing it to the max, and Crowe just wasn't up to it. For "Javert's Suicide", Crowe was able to masterfully act the internal conflict and desperation in Javert as he contemplates a life in the world of Jean Valjean and decides he can't stand it. That allowed him to overcome his vocal limitations and still make that scene an excellent one, IMO. Likewise, I think he did a fine job with Jackman in "The Confrontation". And in the rest of the film, Crowe's superior acting talent and physical power let him inhabit the Javert role with real aplomb.
The other real strength of movies over stage productions is pretty obvious - movies aren't limited to the stage. So, Hooper was able to create some amazing visuals, such as the opening scene, that would be impossible for a stage production. This is one of the ways that movie musicals often fall short - when directors fail to take advantage of the medium. It's one of the big criticisms I've heard of "The Producers", for instance - that the director basically filmed the stage version and didn't adapt it well for the movie medium. An example of how this was done well is "The Sound of Music". That film made superlative use of the various locations around Salzburg to add amazing visual punch to the film. From the opening number, with Julie Andrews singing on top of an Alp, to "Do Re Mi" when she and the von Trapp kids are romping around the entire town, Robert Wise did a stupendous job of exploiting film's ability to transport an audience to a different time and place.
I think Hooper accomplished this in spades with "Les Miz". I really felt transported to early 19th century France in a way I've never been transported by a stage version of the musical. I'm not a sufficient historian to say how accurately he got it, but it sure felt well-done to me. I thought the camera work was superb, too. Chicago 1995 mentions the scene in the sewers, which I agree was well done. The aerial visuals of Paris - certainly special effects shots - worked pretty seamlessly. The cramped passages of old Paris, the cold darkness of the winters, the shambles of the barricade - all conveyed in a way that no stage production can match, and done very well even by movie standards. I wouldn't be surprised to see Art Direction, Set Direction, Cinematography, Costuming, and Makeup Oscar nominations for this film.
So, how to sum all this up? As a movie musical, I think "Les Miserables" is one of the best of the genre. The director made the big choral numbers really big, and conveyed the emotion and power of the solos/duets in a novel and very effective way through having the actors sing while acting. He also had a superior cast, with one exception, that were able to handle the acting demands of the parts as well as the singing demands, given the novel approach to staging their numbers. Crowe doesn't deserve to be dragged down for not being a powerful baritone, and his acting was really excellent, IMO, but his rendition of "Stars" is the one time in the film that I felt the singing wasn't up to the demands of the song, given the staging. The camera work, art/set decoration, sound, costumes, and makeup were all really superior, making the film visually and audially compelling. And the combination of all this resulted in the story of the musical being conveyed to the audience more effectively than I think it has ever been done, or ever COULD be done on stage.
Acknowledging my love of movie musicals, I'd give this film at least a 9 out of 10 on my IMDB vote, and I might just bump it up to 10/10. For context, the other movie musicals I've given 10's to are: "The Sound of Music", "The King and I", "The Wizard of Oz", "Beauty and the Beast", "Mary Poppins", and "Singin' in the Rain".
Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”