Thursday, 28 March 2013

Les Misérables (Review)

Rating: ★½

It's been a long time since a stage musical has been transformed into a movie with a budget like Les Misérables - but director Tom Hooper dreamed a dream of time gone by and that dream become a massive success!

Musical Mission
Blockbuster special effects can give you a thrill but nothing can give you that spine-tingling feeling like a good old-fashioned musical number. Like I've said before in my previous reviews, I strongly believe that Hollywood should give big budget musicals another try, as Les Misérables and Mamma Mia recently proved audiences are definitely willing to pay to see them.

That said, although I loved Tom Hooper for taking the risk of bringing another musical back to the silver screen, I wish he hadn't picked this one. After the first hour this film became really tedious. There are so many deaths that by the fifth or sixth I was starting to lose sympathy. The plot also has a very unusual structure with two or three different story strands going on at once and they all conclude at different times — so it felt more like watching a TV series box set than a feature-length movie with a proper story arch.

Am I On My Own?
The music was also overrated. I enjoyed a couple of the songs and some of the background score was very atmospheric but considering the whole film was sung, only a small percentage of the music really grabbed me. A lot of people who, like me, are not familiar with the stage musical will have a problem sitting through a never-ending score that they've never heard before - especially as the songs aren't particularly catchy.

Anne Was A Dream
Anne Hathaway was by far the best thing in Les Misérables! Her rendition of 'I Dreamed A Dream' sounded brilliant and was extremely moving. Although it was painful how desperate she wanted an Oscar. It's a shame though, that Anne sings the song so early on because its very poignant and climactic — and then the whole film went downhill from there. By the end I was so depressed and unengaged I wanted to sing 'I dreamed a dream of time gone by, when this film was more interesting'!

Helena Boredom Carter
The only laughable thing about Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter's performances was that all they did was reprise their roles from Sweeney Todd. It was like the characters had trotted over from Victorian London to post-Revolutionary France to make a special film crossover cameo! And I'm not the only one who's getting sick of Helena's weird sinister act - which pops up in every movie she does now, with or without Tim Burton egging her on. But no one in this movie annoyed me more than Amanda Seyfried. Her squeaky voice has the tone of fingernails scrapping on a blackboard and those bulgy fish eyes are just plain freaky. I wish people would stop casting her as the young fresh faced love interest because I'm not convinced! And Amanda's relationship with Mr Pout, I mean Eddie Redmayne, was about the most obnoxious thing I've ever seen. Why would he fall for her, when he had the cool, much more grounded, prettier (and much better singer) Samantha Barks killing herself over him?

But it is interesting how in this film the casting can be so wrong in some places and so right in others.

Hugh Jackman is a fantastic singer and his performance was compelling. And though a lot of critics went to town on Russell Crowe's singing, I thought his voice had a nice quality to it even if it wasn't trained to musical theatre standards. Then again, I wasn't that impressed with Russell's performance which fell flatter for me than his singing - he looked vacant and subdued in most of his scenes, almost as if he didn't want to be in the movie. But then, I know how he felt.

Live Misérables
But despite some of my objections to the casting, I did think the decision to have the cast sing live was inspired and really paid off... It was a really great way to give the music that spine-tingling quality of live theatre productions. I don't believe that modern audiences would be prepared to watch musicals where the music has been pre-recorded and mimed, because audiences these days demand realism and are far too aware when something has been faked. The live performances made the music sound as real as it looked.

Not A Revolutionary Plot
There were also some confusing aspects to the plot that got on my nerves. Why, for example, was Russell so desperate to bring down Hugh when there was a whole new revolution to be getting on with? I mean he chases him through a sewer for god sake? I was also confused about how exactly Anne lost her job? Why was she carrying around that incriminating letter? And how come that literally ten minutes after she loses her job, she's become a prostitute?  And how come when Anne seemed so real and raw in that film her daughter looks like a precocious stage school doll? And why would Anne leave her daughter with those two gargoyles? Can't she see that Helena is a complete lunatic? When Hugh figures it out in seconds?... The list of plot holes goes on and on...

I know I've kind of slated this film, but I'm still thrilled to see a musical back in the forefront of cinema releases. And doing great box office, so some people obviously loved it. I've already heard rumours that Wicked is being adapted for the screen. But if Hollywood is planning to adapt more stage hits or old movies as big-budget movie musicals I'd love to hear your suggestions.

And I've got some suggestions of great films that I'd love to see turned into stage musicals!

10 Films That I Want To Be Made Into Stage Musicals

- Stand By Me
- Pocahontas
- Home Alone
- Mean Girls
- Pretty Woman
- The Breakfast Club
- The Goonies
- Enchanted
- Notting Hill
- Harry Potter

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  1. think Pocahontas would be Brilliant on stage... It's got a great score. Has the whole native american thing going on (a bit like the African influences in the Lion King) and then there's a great romance... Also it was kind of overlooked IMHO as a cinema release.

    Stage shows that I'd like to see as movies... I think Guys and Dolls could do with a remake, as Marlon Brando couldn't sing.

  2. I'll watch pretty much anything if it has music. Well okay I didn't really get into Sweeney Todd. A bit too wacky Oliver Twist gone bad for me. I can't believe I didn't notice how sordid that story was when I was a child. Like Cabaret. OMG. I'm so glad I didn't bounce that one out for my kiddies to watch. Some times you should never go back. On the other hand I've never tired of South Pacific though I wasn't a Michener fan. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is classic romance.
    PS Pretty much agree totes with review of Les Miserables. Depressing story line and wimpy surviving heroine let it down. I don't know how many times I checked my watch and I actually took a bathroom break which is unheard of the first time I watch a movie.

  3. If you don't like musicals, there's a chance you might like it, but I wouldn't put money on it. Good review Joey.

  4. Thanks so much for your comments! It's The CineMonsters 1st Anniversary today! Have a great Easter holiday!