Before I say anything else, I just need to get this off my chest. The POTO movie should have been this good, and I can't help but feel that just because it's Les Mis, it gets somehow preferential treatment. If Les Mis had been as bad as POTO the entire universe would have been up in arms, and it just goes to show how little the RUG care about their long-term fans. I think I will be angry about the POTO movie for the rest of my life, because I've seen so many shining examples since then of how well people can make stage musical adaptations, and I think it would have benefitted from waiting another ten years
Anyway, Les Mis thoughts!
Stunningly beautiful throughout. I'd already noticed from the trailer that the Parisian setting especially looked amazing, which pleased me greatly - I love seeing Paris on film, but in the book, the city itself is essentially another character. There were actually a few nods to the book that I liked (even though I've not finished it yet - determined now!) - like the elephant where Gavroche lives, the labyrinth of alleyways where Valjean and Cosette escape from Javert into the convent, the bottleneck of streets where they build the barricade. Basically I just love how it wasn't purely an adaptation of the musical, but relied heavily on the book for the visuals. It looked like the novel looked in my head - which I think says more for Hugo's descriptive power than anything else. :)
There were also a few obvious nods to the stage origins. :) (I haven't seen Les Mis on stage since about 2001 and that was before it moved out of the Palace Theatre, so my memory may be a little fuzzy on details, but there were definitely some lovely homages.) Most notably, the flag-waving (of course) and Enjolras's death, as he was hanging out of the window in a perfect mirroring of how he falls on the barricade in the show. It just goes to show that you can produce a movie-musical without "jazz hands" and big dance numbers. When people think of musicals they think of Rogers&Hammerstein, big choreography and staring into middle distance - there is a new, modern generation of musicals emerging which approaches them like any other movie. There is a secret language to movie musicals, just like there was a language to silent films, and film-makers need to grasp it and help it evolve, not approach them like unchartered territory and panic when it comes to filming the songs. (Rob Marshall, take note; you are the worst culprit for this.)
Casting was mostly brilliant, too, with the notable exception of Russell Crowe. I have to admit I had my doubts when I heard he'd been cast, so I wasn't expecting great things anyway. It felt like he was holding back a bit. Javert and Valjean need to have the same vocal power and Russell Crowe just didn't stand up to scrutiny against Hugh Jackman. Consequently, in "The Confrontation" it seemed that Jackman had to hold back himself so that their voices were equal. Which is a shame, because that scene is incredibly powerful and the counterpoints should fit together whilst standing up to scrutiny separately, which neither of those renditions would have done... By the time Javert had his moment of desolate confliction, I just wanted to push the whiny sod off the bridge myself - which is not how one should feel in that scene.
Also I think he would benefit from more vocal training - there's clearly some raw skill in there but his renditions of the songs were more "pop" like than I would have expected - sliding up to notes is a lazy, cheaty way of getting there, and he did a lot of that. I wasn't particularly enamoured of his voice generally - too nasal, not enough resonance. But that's just me.
(Anyway, once you've heard Philip Quast pwn "Stars" as effortlessly as he does, nothing will ever match it...)
I worried that Hugh Jackman was too young for the role of Valjean, and for the most part that turned out to be true (considering the story takes place over such a long timescale) - he didn't seem to age very much at all. He played it well, though, and seemed to have a decent grasp of the character. My only criticism is that he simply doesn't have the range for the part - the sign of a good tenor is reaching the high notes without sounding like you're going to break something, and it was more than obvious during "Bring Him Home" that he was struggling. Which is entirely fair - it's a very challenging song and not everyone can soar like Colm Wilkinson. ;)
Oh yeah, that was a nice touch, too - Colm Wilkinson as the bishop. My mum and I had to explain, respectively, to David and Paul why we were sniggering at that bit. :)
I also enjoyed that they didn't just cast well-known faces in all the roles, so Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, etc were relative unknowns. Amanda Seyfried was a passable Cosette and did at least have the requisite upper register (and again - it's really bloody high). Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter - as expected - were hilarious and awesome, though his French accent was offputting. I always find much of the comedy of "Master of the House" comes from the silly Cockney accents, though I can see what they were trying to do with it. I really really want to watch the 25th anniversary DVD now so I can see Matt Lucas's interpretation (but first I have to inflict the 10th anniversary video on Paul. :P)
Gavroche was perfectly cast, as was young Cosette. Very talented kids, both. I would have preferred Enjolras and Marius to have been cast the opposite way around, but only because I picture Marius with curly hair - I suppose you have Michael Ball to blame for that. :P
Oh yeah, apparently he will be recording the original song for the purposes of the Oscar nod. The song in question didn't jar too badly, so that's something, although it reminded me of "Ever More Without You" from The Woman in White... I loved the additional orchestrations, too - the nuns chanting in the convent, for example. Orchestrations were by Anne Dudley (of The 10th Kingdom fame) so I shouldn't be surprised. :)
I need to mention Anne Hathway as Fantine. At first I was a little worried that she would be too 'fey' for the part, but she blew. me. away. AFAIK she was the only person to do their solo in ONE TAKE. I did think it very amusing that she got a massive credit for only being in about an eighth of the film, but it's entirely justified. She's the performance everyone will remember and if she doesn't get the Oscar there's something wrong with the world. In fact, "I Dreamed A Dream" wasn't even the key moment for me. Somehow I'd forgotten than when I saw the show in London, Fantine's death was one of the parts that made me cry, and then it got to that point in the film and I fell to pieces. :(
So beautiful, so painful, so perfect.
The comic relief of the next scene is a breath of fresh air after the bleakness of that scene; I think because I was STILL CRYING for most of it I didn't appreciate it as much as I normally would, though it somehow comes across much funnier on stage - perhaps because there's more scope for physical comedy, I don't know.
Predictably, the next bit to make me cry was Valjean's death - not because of the death itself, but because by this point just listening to Anne Hathaway singing was enough to break me a second time. (Also, we did a rendition of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (the reprise at the end) in choir when I was about 14, so it was a massive nostalgia hit, too.) So basically I was crying from Fantine's ghost right up until the end credits. That song is the evil genius of finales.
I really want to buy the soundtrack but I think I might never be brave enough to listen to it, and it'll become like "Slipping Through My Fingers" in Mamma Mia - an inexplicable emotional trigger which will take me months to get over.
That's a good thing, by the way. :) If I hadn't cried in this film I would have been sorely disappointed.
Overall then: highly recommended indeed. First entry on my "fandom: les misérables" tag!
I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to go and see a three-hour long, emotionally draining musical after my Legal Assistant day - we didn't get back until midnight and today I'm exhausted. Definitely worth it, though.
I am happy to report that all the over-emotional reactions to Les Mis have been appropriately inspiring in terms of the Jonathan Creek flail. I think also I've been so bloody tired lately that my brain hasn't had room for much in the way of fandom, so maybe the emotional purge did its job. This morning, however, a little bit of something popped back into my head for the post-tags Angstfic. I need to make that story slightly longer, as currently the "Three Gamblers" tag is a few hundred words bigger and it should really be the other way around.
I want to do a 'flashback' of sorts, to go near the start of the story when Jonathan queries where the rest of Maddy's friends are, i.e. why he's the only one helping her pack. The answer is that they're all hungover from the night before (Maddy opts to go home instead of getting drunk when the evening becomes a lost cause). I had an idea for a scene set just before the carnage ensues where she's at the pub with Sheena, who asks where Jonathan is - it might even be that she asks if they still communicate at all, forcing Maddy to admit that yes, they do, then sort of... clam up. :) Obviously, Sheena would figure out immediately what she's hiding and be scarily intuitive when she finds out about the communication breakdown in the wake of the America news.
Of course, as a counterpoint to that I'd have Adam taking Jonathan out to the pub in order to distract him from the inevitable America situation, whereupon he can be just as scarily intuitive. I like counterpoints. :P
But before that I need to finish the post-ALTAF angstfic, and make it angstier somehow (it's still not heart-breaking enough). Then I need to get the extra scene written, done and dusted before Eni's birthday so can I get all of the tags printed off - a few more might happen after that for series 2, but I can slot them in later. :P
My leave date is now confirmed as 22nd February, with my new start date as 11th March, and I've sent an "unpaid leave" request through so hopefully payroll will get the hint and I won't have to argue with them later... The next month is going to be very very tight indeed, but at least March payday is exactly four weeks from February's, so with any luck the new job will make the month fly past...
Okay, I think this is long enough.