March 7, 2013 by rachelcmann
Despite a lifetime in the theater I’ve never actually worked on or seen a production of Les Miz. Not sure how I got so lucky. When they first announced a movie version I wasn’t enthusiastic. Not all musical adaptations are bad (the Oscar revived Chicago being a good example (although I thought I was in a time machine that took me back a decade)), but Les Miz is a monster of a show.
On the subject of actors who can (or can’t) sing, I think it would be fairly rare to find a successful actor who can’t at least carry a tune or do a jig. The whole “triple threat” thing is just a reality for actors who want to work. We knew going in that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman had good voices. Could Anne pull off the famous “I Dreamed a Dream” though? Not being super familiar with the show ahead of time, I didn’t care much about the rest of the cast. Some big names, some raised eyebrows, whatever. Then I saw the Oscar broadcast where those poor people had to follow the impeccable Jennifer Hudson. Oy, poor darlings.
So what did I think of the film? Eh. Take it or leave it. It’s a musical without a lot of book, nearly the entire thing is sung, and if you like musicals you will probably like this film. That said, there are some plot holes. Beyond that, a couple of things stick out for me. One – Amanda Seyfried (who I normally enjoy) cannot sing. Oh, she can hit the notes but apparently sings every note in vibrato. It’s incredibly distracting and I’m not sure why they didn’t cast someone else. It’s not like she brought incredible depth to the role in another way. Plus isn’t she a little old for the part? Two – I’m surprised Hathaway won the Oscar. She’s onscreen for less than 30 minutes, and sure, she’s good, but not that good. I’ve only seen one of her competitors though so maybe the pool just wasn’t great this year? I liked Samantha Barks’ Eponine a lot though she has some truly unfortunate lyrics. Three – It’s interesting to see the huge number of close ups the director chose to do. On stage, there is no close up, it requires a different type of acting. Putting space between the actor and the audience has advantages and disadvantages. It can cover a lot of sins, but it can also expand the story and help envelope the viewer. Watching Anne’s face for three minutes during her big number and I start thinking about the big fuss everyone made about her hair, and looking at her teeth and realizing it’s a one shot (meaning no cuts) and wondering how many takes they did. Instead of losing myself in the moment, I got distracted.
So, yes, I can see why it was nominated. But I can also see why it didn’t win. Sweeping vistas, a roster of stars and a known title aren’t enough. We need to be embraced by the story and taken away from our lives, even if it’s to embroil us in the crappy lives of the gutter rats in Revolutionary France. That said, I totally had tears streaming down my cheeks at the end. So I guess it moved me after all.
- Les Miserables: ‘Some songs took 21 takes’… (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Les Miserables’: Oscars 2013 Performance – WATCH NOW! (justjared.com)
- ‘Les Misérables’ Coming Back to Broadway Next Year (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)