Do You Hear the People Sing – Les Miserables
It will probably come as no surprise to you my love of music stretches well into the musical scene. After all I am an advocate of nearly every type of music – except dubstep. God, I hate dubstep. However, musicals get a big tick for me. I both love to see them live and love to listen to just the music - I have a playlist dedicated just to musicals on my iPod despite most needing a plotline to make sense. From Grease to Rocky Horror Picture Show to Mamma Mia and, of course, every Disney musical ever, the stage singing sensation makes me happy.
I finally got around to seeing the new Les Miserables movie last week and I’m using this blog post to sift through the good, the bad and the utterly fabulous. One of the biggest talking points was whether the actors could portray these classic characters and all they had to suffer through. To me, Hugh Jackman made a very believable Jean Val Jean and nailed the thinking-outloud-singing parts. Russell Crowe as Javert was a good choice with his evil eye and professional manner – though I thought he struggled on some of the higher singing notes. Sacha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter were the perfectly deliciously evils as The Thenadiers, and I cannot fault any of the Revolutionary Student Group choices, especially the youngster playing Gavroche.
I had a problem with all three of the lead females though. I thought the actual choices of Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfreid as Cosette and Samantha Barks as Eponine were fine and their singing was very good. But I can’t help feeling they were all portrayed far too modern compared to the rest of the film. The pretty dress Fantine wore at the start which took away from the hard times working in the factory and Eponine’s lack of looking like she lived in a rough time really bugged me.
As I said before, I’m a fan of the musical and a bit of a traditionalist. There were two parts of the film which I feel they just didn’t do right. Firstly, if you saw any other version you’d know Jean Val Jean rips open his shirt at the end of Who Am I to reveal his prison number 24601 which Javert stares at, realising he’s found his man. This version didn’t do it and I felt it lost its authenticity a bit ... and because I, like most girls, wanted to see Hugh Jackman take his shirt off. Secondly, there were swapping around of lines in the songs – the worst being in At The End Of The Day which does NOT go I am the mayor of this town / I run a business of repute. Finally, the new song Suddenly did nothing for me except fill in a bit of time between leaving the pub and arriving at the Paris gate.
Majority of the singing was done brilliantly and this can be put down to all the actors singing live during filming, but I had to give Do You Hear The People Sing the blog title this week. I have a particular fondness for the barricade scenes and I thought the movie portrayed them brilliantly. I love the rebelliousness of the revolutionary student club and the way they care so much to make a change, but still managing to be just the young people they are with their jokes and attraction to women. Their songs drove me into emotion fits: I got slightly enraged during The ABC Cafe / Red and Black, had a giggle during Little People and cried during Empty Chairs at Empty Table as my heart broke for poor Marius. Do You Hear the People Sing was done the best for me with a mix of passion and pride and a touch of hesitancy at the thought of taking on the French police, and I even let it slide that it was done as a chorus rather than split into the traditional singing three parts.
I could do on and on about the film and into the wonderful chorus scenes and camera angles and so on, but I’ll wrap it up here by saying this: Les Miserables is first and foremost a brilliant story, no matter whether a big budget Hollywood film or a school production group takes it on. If you haven’t seen any version, this movie is a good one to start with because it is done superbly and with a lot of care and respect for the classic French story.
PS. Marry me, Marius?