Friday, February 8, 2013

Oh the miserable!

Well, I'm a fan of musicals. Not that I like each and every one of them but they can be real fun. So I can shamelessly admit that I loved Mamma Mia! as much in the movies as I did on the stage in London. OK maybe I loved the London one a bit more and I truly loved the movie one mostly because of the almighty Meryl. But I regress.
Les Misérables is Victor Hugo's great work and I must admit I've never read the book. I might still get to it and usually I try my best to do it before watching the movie although that just makes me more disappointed in the screen version. This time I didn't and more than not decidedly so because I wanted to enjoy the story for the first time. No, I had no idea what happened.
So I went into the movies properly excited to see this movie that enchanted the critics and viewers alike and is up for eight Academy Awards. Eight! Did you know that's in category with Casablanca, To Kill A Mockingbird and Apocalypse Now? The same category as The Dark Knight and Brokeback Mountain? What I am trying to say, in case you didn't get it, it's in the company of some pretty amazing movies. Now, I know nominees don't mean victories but still.
So now that I have made a few disclaimers, I will just add the outline of the story for those who have (as have I) been living under a rock and were not acquainted with it. So Jean Valjean is a man who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. He was imprisoned for five years but because he had several failed attempts to escape, he was released nineteen years later with parole, meaning that society will forever know him as a former prisoner and eternally reject him. Which of course they do. He can't find work nor food and in the end after a personal enlightenment decides to throw away his passport which speaks of his imprisonment and will therefore bind him forever with chains stronger than the prison ball and chain. Jean Valjean is dead and a new man is born, one who lives an honest life and cares for other people. But breaking parole means he must forever be hiding from inspector Javert who hated him in prison and decided to find him after he fled. But Jean is now Monsieur Madeleine, a successful business owner and mayor. Among his workers is also Fantine, who loses her job when the supervisor learns she is an unwed mother. This leads her to prostitution in order to earn money for her ill child who is being taken care of by an innkeeper and his wife. Before she is arrested (by Javert) and put in jail, Monsieur Madeleine rescues her, realizing she used to work for him and then promising her he'll find her daughter, Cosette. That's more than enough of an outline. The story spans seventeen years and covers the uprising of the people, historical turnabouts and personal stories, romances and tragedies.

The hilarious Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen
I have to say that Russell Crowe should never, ever, ever sing again in a movie. Never. Ever. Nevermore, Poe would say. Seriously. He sounds like he has a frog in his throat. I read that he was offended by people claiming he didn't sing his own lines. I believe he sung them because it sounds like Russell but that's just the problem. Nothing is wrong with his voice per se, he can be a very decent actor. I am not a huge fan of his but he can act. But singing every bloody line of the script (which wasn't just his problem, admit)? "Whaaaaaat do you meeeeeeeeeeeeeeean?" Oh, come on. That is my main complaint about this movie that has drawn eight oscar nominations. 

Anne Hathaway as Fantine
There are certain parts in a movie musical that CAN be spoken. I'm being honest. Viewers wouldn't mind. And a few scenes were just made awkward that way. The story is truly of The Miserable Ones, no doubt about it. And I was surprised by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. No, surprised is not the right word. They were both perfect for the quirky roles and they were fun. Triangle singing was very confusing, for example. Hugh Jackman was good and Anne Hathaway practically broke my heart (so she better get that oscar!) but Russell... No. I was also very taken by the little boy who played Gavroche. Very beautiful and convincing performance. It is said that Anne Hathaway blew everyone away with her audition and left them in tears. I have absolutely no difficulty believing that. I hope we get to see that audition someday.
So the final verdict is that the movie is beautifully made. The performances are strong and deep. The songs sung with grace and emotion. To give credit where credit is due, all performances were sung live and it was obvious. In a good way. But unfortunatelly I believe some of the parts should not have been sung. I was bothered by the everpresent cockney accent singing but it's an English musical, so okay. And I really really think that Anne Hathaway should receive this oscar. I have seen her in many roles and I have heard this song sung by many different people (most famously probably this cheeky Briton) and I've never been as touched as I have been by Anne's performance. For the first time ever I really felt it and had a feeling it was coming from within her. Simply amazing. After her part is over in the movie, I felt like she was missing in the rest of the story and that's a sign of a great role. Go, Anne.

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