I really wanted to love it, especially since it's getting so much attention and hype, but I ultimately came away thinking it was just average and that the hype wasn't deserved. I didn't think it was bad but I don't think the direction was that great (I got serious close-up fatigue) and I think the pacing was rather off, so I actually got a bit bored at several places and started looking at my watch, which is never a good sign. Some of the direction choices seemed inconsistent, e.g. some songs are a lot more muted and toned down, which I understand, but then we have Samantha Barks belting out 'On My Own' and then I start to feel like the piece is uneven. I think the film also brought out some of the flaws of the material, e.g. underdeveloped characterisation, that weren't necessarily so evident on the stage. Some of the messing around with the placement of songs worked (e.g. 'I Dreamed a Dream'), some of them IMHO really didn't ('On My Own').
There was something lacking that didn't make the show come to life for me. None of the songs had any momentum, sometimes because the keys were lowered so drastically as to take all the power out of the material, sometimes because of the casting issues (Russell Crowe - he seems to have concentrated so much on singing by numbers that he forgot to act too). I thought the cast wouldn't be a problem as it's an ensemble piece, but it does throw off the dynamics a bit. I thought orchestra(tions) severely lacking too for a big motion picture adaptation. At times I felt it would have been much better as a straight Les Mis film (especially when everyone seemed to come a bit more to life when there was just spoken dialogue rather than recitative), which kind of defeats the point I guess.
I thought it was to the film's disadvantage that it lacked a sense of red-blooded French flair. The whole thing felt very, very Anglicised, especially with the profusion of British Isles accents, be they RP, cockney, Scottish, Irish or otherwise. This is probably an issue with the stage production but it felt even more so on screen, especially when they're asking an audience to believe that a set which is a well-known part of London is really pre-Haussmann Paris.
As for the cast, Eddie Redmayne, Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks came across very well. Hugh was OK but it doesn't help that his voice isn't particularly well suited to a lot of the songs and is not the most pleasant of things to listen to, and at some points I found his acting choices cheesy. Amanda Seyfried was not nearly as bad as I was expecting, but she may have been a little out of her depth vocally. But Cosette has had her part so brutally cut down over the years that it didn't really matter. Would someone care to enlighten me which accent Sacha Baron Cohen was trying to do? It sounded like a weird Irish-Jewish-Russian hybrid. At some points he seemed to be channelling Topol. I didn't like his performance; I actually found it worse than Crowe's. Sadly Aaron Tveit just didn't register. There didn't seem to be enough conviction, soul or charisma coming from him that I would expect to come from Enjolras.
I would probably see it again, but not at the cinema - on DVD. A 3 out of 5 from me. I remain unconvinced that musicals work on film. It's not a Phantom-type disaster by any means, but it's not the next King's Speech. I even thought Sweeney Todd made a substantially better transition to the screen than this did, despite the amount of material that was cut out of it.
Audience reception seemed positive, although there were a few titters at lines that weren't intentionally funny, either because of silly lyrics or because of the way they were delivered. I don't think the new song went down too well (and it was unnecessary). There was a very brief moment of applause at the end from one part of the audience.
MusicalityMember Since 19 Feb 2009
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