Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables 2012 - So Much to Say, But Only A Little I Will Type

As a Christmas present, my older sister took me to watch the big screen adaptation of the epic stage musical Les Miserables.

As a child I would wait anxiously for the film adaptations of Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. Phantom as we all know came and went on film in 2004. Cats was filmed onstage for home viewing. Miss Saigon really needs to be a film now if not just for the fact that onstage they have a helicopter flying out of it. Things that grand need to be put on film.

And then there's Les Miserables. Upon it's release as a stage musical, all the advertisements showed an illustration of a young poor cleaning girl. Who is that girl, I wondered. What's her story? Why is she, among this cast of hundreds, chosen to represent this grand story on a poster?

Of course every time someone tried to answer my question, I would get even more confused. Les Miserables has a very busy and involved story. I've seen it onstage several times now, and I'm pretty sure I'm only getting about half of the actual story in each viewing. The music though, is very beautiful.

I grew up on movie musicals. My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Annie. I have grown used to musicals being adapted for film. Around the 80's and 90's a lot these big musicals appeared onstage, but sadly it seemed that the practice of bringing them to screen had stopped. Until now ;-)

The Les Miserables movie is immediately unique due to the fact that all the vocals are recorded LIVE. The only other movie musical I know that has done this is some of the vocals in Bette Midler in Gypsy. This is a huge step in the production of movie musicals and I hope it's a practice that keeps on happening. The result in Les Miserables is amazing.

The film adaptation of the musical takes original libretto and does a unique task of making the piece both grander, and intimate. We are exposed to these awesome sweeping shots, but once the characters have a moment to themselves, the camera is focused on their faces, with almost no cutaways, as they sing these great ballads. I have heard "On My Own" and "I Dreamed a Dreamed" many times whether it be onstage, on karaoke or at a (gasp) audition, but they felt very fresh in this movie. Hugh Jackman of course shines as our main hero, Jean Valjean. He did do musicals before he was a movie star. Vocally I was truly impressed with Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne. Anne, as the suffering Fantine, has long wanted to do a movie musical, and WOW, what a place to start. Eddie Redmayne, as Marius, does an outstanding job of externalizing the internal emotions of his character.

This movie has guts. It really dives into the story and music and takes us on this grand musical, opera-like ride. I am glad to say that Les Miserables, a movie musical that I kind of have been waiting for, is a pretty awesome and unique film that I'm sure I'll be watching repeatedly a lot, and not just because the story is so interwoven.