Posted 13 January 2013 - 04:21 AM
I am relieved to see The Scorpion's review because I saw it for the first time tonight and was slightly disappointed.
What I loved/liked/admired:
Samantha Banks. Enough said. Oh, OK. How marvellous to see a relative unknown make such a stellar impression. Well done, Samantha Banks.
Eddie Redmayne. He gave it his all and I really admired all of his effort. The Empty Chairs scene: he was giving it!
Amanda Seyfried. I could listen to her sing all day. It's a total taste thing but I love her voice (which I gather puts me in a distinct minority.) I thought she put a real stamp on In My Life. There was a little bit of anger and frustration there. I thought Cossette came across as having some strength and backbone than I'd ever seen and somehow, Seyfried seemed to play her as Valjean had done an exceptional job of raising and grounding her. One thing I think made it easier for Amanda was that Isabelle Allan (Allen?) was so strong as young Cossette. The little girl made a real impression in character and I think that laid the foundation for Amanda's work as the grown up Cossette.
Hugh Jackman. He did the best talk singing I've seen. The acting was terrific. He impressed me more than I expected he would, as am not particularly a Hugh Jackman fan.
The Bishop of Digne's silver. Lots of it. Finally enough bling that you could see Valjean pawning it for a stake in life. (I've always assumed M. Madeleine International was founded on the proceeds of the honest Bishop's silver tea service.)
The Thenardiers' relationship. By my interpretation it was really some kind of twisted love match and by my interpretation Madame was actually the brains behind their nefarious operations for the most part. Though overall HBC and SBC did well with the characters I've seen much stronger Thenardiers on stage. I thought she was much stronger than him on film. I did giggle at wee Eponine laughing it up with Daddy while they scammed more money out of people. That was amusing to me.
Whoever played Grantaire. Hubba bubba.
The raw emotion from whoever it was who collected Gavroche's body. It was the only point in the whole film I was moved to tears. (I would have, should have been moved by Anne Hathaway, but we've all been so exposed to her I Dreamed a Dream already that it was more of a confirmation of all the hype.)
Anne Hathaway: just lovely, just fantastic. I worry she won't get the Oscar because bloody Hollywood will vote for somebody else out of spite and fatigue. (Though I did think Fantine was a bit too touchy feely with the dying Valjean.)
The introduction of the La Marque funeral into the narrative. Worked so well. Launched the action so genuinely. The use of Do You Hear the People Sing? as a literal and figurative rally of the crowd toward action was brilliant.
The movement of many of the songs. Some very good calls.
What left me more disappointed than enthralled:
As almost everybody has pointed out, the sound. The orchestra sounded as if it was two theatres down Shaftesbury.
The Steady Cam, which should be renamed the Shaky Cam. Seriously, twice I had to shake my head to refocus. I didn't mind the close ups, though I noticed Hugh Jackman had an ingrown hair pimple in one scene. But I found the editing, when they cut away from the eternal close up, was terribly choppy.
The edits to the narrative/songs. To me it felt like they cut short a lot of the lines that made sense of most of the characters and some of the action or built mood or context. And the new sections I thought didn't strengthen the film at all. For example, Grantaire just seemed like a guy who happened to be drinking during the proceedings, not the conflicted drinker who stayed with his friends but really wanted to be somewhere else or at least getting the I am going to die in the flower of my youth part of the proceedings over with fast. In the last stage version I saw, Grantaire had an affection and protective attachment to Gavroche. That was sacrificed. As was Drink With Me, which with the movie cast, might have been quite an effective scene.
Was A Little Fall of Rain reduced? It felt it but at one point I decided to stop reciting the lyrics in my head and just go with the show. Still I was often left with a sensation of 'isn't it a bit longer?' Also, I thought it should have started raining sooner. All of sudden Eponine and everybody else was soaked. Which technically isn't a little fall of rain, in my books anyway.
Master of the House. Shouldn't have been cut down. Comedy was sacrificed.
Same with the dire ruin of Beggars at the Feast. Very sorry about that. Though it was funny watching the two of them pull their carriage entrance switcheroo and then later being removed bodily. I am still confused as to why Madame was in possession of Tom Petty's glasses. A weak exit for what should have been a totally memorable turn.
Suddenly. If you have 2:33 for that - and all that emotion was pretty fucking sudden relative to where the song popped up in the script - give me that 2:33 in the lines you cut.
The Grandfather. Waste of time.
The orchestrations: I don't know the technical term, but it felt to me like a lot of the bridging music was lost, to the detriment of the flow. Scene after scene just seemed to be stitched abruptly to the other.
Javert decorating Gavroche. Totally out of character. The two barely interacted previously, bar Gavroche outing Javert as per usual. It should have been a great and moving moment, but Javert never gave nor was given an opportunity to give a hint there was anything in him that would secretly find little Gavroche valourous.
Hugh Jackman's singing: it was fine, but we've all seen, if I may presume, far superior Valjeans. That said, his facial expressions were awesome and it was a strong, strong performance in my view. Marvellous interpretation of the internal conflict, grief, bitterness and regret after the silver.
Russell Crowe. He did not do a bad job. He just didn't do a particularly good one and his voice - in addition to making me think of Gordon Lightfoot the whole time - was not up to Javert's job. There's wound tight and then there's wooden. There's stoic and then there's stone. There's a whole raft of memorable Javerts and then there's Russell. He was miscast. Not his fault. He delivered well with what he's got to offer. But when I recall the number of Javerts who've gone wild with confusion and anger leading up to taking the plunge, it just didn't do it for me. They obviously invested a lot in terms of the script and story in emphasizing the lifelong hunt/hunted relationship between the two men. An opportunity was missed.
I suppose making this film was a hopeless task. The material is so well known and over the years so many massively talented people have left their mark on it. It's hard to push up against that. Still, and overall, the piece felt rushed to me with many unhelpful eliminations of well known material that strengthened the richness of the story and the experience. They seemed to want to have it every which way. Part the musical, part the book, part 'well you all know it cold anyway so you know what you need to know when we do this, even if we're not actually showing it on screen.' Well, what about the people who don't know it that well?
That said, maybe I am one of those who knows it all too well. And certainly they weren't setting out simply to transpose the stage musical to the screen, that was evident. Even so, the movie version served for me as a reminder of how powerful and marvellous the stage musical is and I look forward to seeing that again. And again. And again. The movie - I probably will see it again before it exits theatre - be worse on a television screen I think - but I haven't got a firm date in mind.
There was considerable applause, briefly, from the audience at the end. None at any other point. I heard people griping about both Jackman and Crowe's singing... not bitterly, but a number of people were underwhelmed as I heard them exiting.
6/10 and I'm sorry to say it.