This movie takes place in 19th century France centering on Jean Valjean, a man bonded in prison for stealing bread for a sick nephew. This prisoner is known as number 24601 to the police man Javert. After breaking parol, Jean Valjean goes on the run to create a new life for himself, eventually taking up a high position in Paris. Also in Paris lives Fontine, a starving mother working to keep her child Cosette alive. Cosette lives with two awful inn owners and their daughter, Eponine. After Fontine dies from sickness, Jean Valjean takes responsibility for Cosette. Years later everyone is grown up and a rebellion is stirring in the poor streets of Paris. Marius, the object of infatuation for Eponine and Cosette, bands together with his close friends to build a barricade. In the end, the plans turn sour and we say “goodbye” to many beloved characters. An emotional and powerful story full of the most beautiful music one could dream up.
As a lover of this tale, I know this story and the music backwards and forwards. The latest rendition that was released on Christmas day both honored the story line and exposed a large audience to unforgettable music.
Jean Valjean was played by Hugh Jackman. Not only does Hugh Jackman have acting experience but he also was trained in musical theater and I could see this shine through from the moment the movie began. Jackman honed the desperately guilty Valjean all the way to his moment of amendment. His voice was effortless and supported his portryal of Valjean while keeping things very organic on screen. I was very impressed with his performance.
Russel Crowe can sing? Well…kind of. I mean yeah- he’s famous and they needed the name on the credits but I think they could have found someone alot better to take on Javert. He may have look for Javert and for never signing before he did pretty good but he never gave the screen life. His singing never changed in volume and always sounded like he was pushing. His acting was decent but in the tensest scenes where the audience really understands who Javert is he never milked that or seemed to really grasp the character. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Crowe and I still adore the movie I just could see things being even better.
Another singer I was disappointed in was Anne Hathway. I know I’m asking for a punch in the face but see this movie through a music majors point of view (especially a music major that is concentrated in Voice…). This is how I explain it. There’s the actors that use the voice to its optimal potential to support the story and then there’s the actors like Anne who cheat the voice to communicate. What do I mean by that? Well, there were moments in “I Dreamed A Dream” where she would cut off her phrases to show some sort of pain. I believe that holding those phrases through can really expand on the song and bring the listener on a journey. Hearing somebody scream their notes may be situationally correct, but it don’t feel good to my ears. Nor does hearing somebody choke on tiny little phrases of music instead of singing through. Anne chose to act more than sing and don’t get me wrong- her performance was incredibly moving, I just wish she has “sung” a little bit more.
Let’s just say Marius looked the part. He was gorgeous and adorable and all that fun stuff but do not get me started on his voice. Was he singing or croaking? I’m sorry but that was not his natural voice. I was INCREDIBLY disappointed because when I saw the preview I heard his voice and I thought he was wonderful. Well, then I saw more than 2 seconds in the movie and that was enough. He was an excellent actor (as all of the stars were) but his voice was all wrong. He imitated singing. I don’t know if he was a natural actor or singer first but he has some work to do. He also moved his jaw every time he held out notes and let his vibratto come through (vibratto is the shake in peoples voices) and that drives me CRAZY! There were moments that he did shine though. He understood how to use the voice to expand on the acting instead of cheating it. I was especially impressed with the opening to “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” He really embodied a tragic despair at the loss of his friends (and the videography of that opening was BEAUTIFUL). I almost wish that he had switched roles with the guy who played Enjolras (his friend who leads the rebellion). Now that guy was PHENOMINAL. He was such a natural I would have loved to see him play Marius.
I thought Amanda Seyfried sounded like a bird. Seriously. That’s about all I have to say about her.
So those were my main opinions on some of the lead characters. There were many other characters I was happy to see in the movie that really added to the magic such as Helena Bonham Carter (who is my FAVORITE <3) and Sacha Baron Cohen (who was in Sweeney Todd WITH Helena Bonham Carter). These two made a hilarious duo who really had fun playing the crazy inn owners. Another was the girl who played Eponine in the 25th Ann. Concert, Samantha Barks.
I wish I could have seen this movie not from a singers point of view. I so badly wanted to be able to watch it without nit-picking because I ADORE the musical so much. So from my “I adore Les Mis and everything about it” point of view – it was a wonderful flick and did justice to the story. From my “I love to study how to sing and enjoy really good musical performances” point of view – it wasn’t stocked with incredibly talented singers who could really showcase the musical side to the movie.
Watch the preview here;