Friday, September 13, 2013

Les Miserables, the movie adaptation of the musical adaptation of the novel

I finally got around to watching the 2012 movie adaptation of the musical, Les Miserables. My reactions:

If you want to listen to the music of Les Miz, you're better off pulling up the 10th anniversary special on youtube. The exception is Amanda Seyfried who acts and sings a better Cosette than Judy Kuhn. The director, Tom Hooper, claims his actors were directed to adapt their singing to method acting on set, but I don't entirely buy that given that some actors deviated from the musical style more than others. I suspect some of the actors were simply more able than the others to achieve Broadway-quality singing, and those who could sing the songs conventionally, did. The added songs and song parts, eg, Marius's grandfather joining a Marius-Cosette duet, were flat. I'd like to see the songs that Hooper edited out of the film, such as Sascha Baron Cohen's Dog Eats Dog.

Anne Hathaway's Fantine epitomized what Hooper was going for in his adaptation of the musical - not just translating the musical to a movie, but reconstructing the musical as a movie. Of all the actors, I thought she did the best job of retailoring her role for the movie. Fantine and Cosette are 2-dimensional characters in the musical, more plot device than featured characters. For the movie, Hooper and Hathaway elevated Fantine to a macabre focal point while staying true to her story that's tragic but otherwise sanitized in the musical. Of the singing parts that were noticeably altered other than for timing, Hathaway's I Dreamed a Dream is the only one that became a song for the movie that is distinct from the same song in the musical rather than a chopped up version of the same song.

The loud crunch of Javert's body hitting the river and the quick beat with Cosette reaching up for Marius at the bottom of the tavern stairs were clumsy. Speaking of Javert, it's good to know that after Captain Jack Aubrey left His Royal Majesty's Navy he was able to find work as a corrections officer in France. Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop looks like Mike Myers as Goldmember. The last scene on the barricade heaven with dead soldiers strewn at the foot and over-emoting of Jackman and Hathaway looks like a north Korean passion play. Replacing Eponine with the Bishop as the other Jedi ghost with Fantine in Valjean's death scene was a mistake. Yes, we can accept the Bishop probably had died by then, but his death wasn't part of the story nor included with Fantine, Eponine, and Valjean's deaths in the motif of love-based deathbed redemption.

It's so easy for Marius Pontmercy. Eponine and Cosette both fall in love with Marius with no effort on his part. He's reckless in a deadly situation that kills all his friends, yet Eponine and Valjean take turns saving his life with Eponine sacrificing her life for his. If Valjean caught his fatal illness in the sewer, then he sacrificed his life for Marius, too. Then Marius returns to his rich grandfather's household with his new bride. For a people's hero who claims he wouldn't accept a cent he didn't earn, Marius seems comfortably unconflicted resuming his life of luxury with the pampered Cosette.

Gavroche was a combatant pilfering ammunition from dead soldiers in plain view of the dead soldiers' buddies; they were kind enough to give him a warning shot but he insisted on continuing. I would have shot him, too.

The French Army in the movie is disturbingly callous with the bodies of their dead soldiers. The soldiers leave their dead buddies lying about for Valjean to steal a uniform, and after the battle, the soldiers' bodies are left lying on the street and then stacked in a cart on the side while the women clean the street. I grant that the deployment of soldiers took more of a cannon-fodder approach in the 19th century, but that doesn't mean soldiers cared less about each other or line officers cared less about their men. The military reverence for their dead is ages old.

And why are the students better marksmen than the soldiers? At least when the Ewoks fought the Imperial garrison on Endor, we could accept the Ewoks were skilled warriors conducting an ambush within their heavily forested homeland as opposed to "rich young boy" university students confronting professional soldiers head on.

See Mad Minerva's review.

Eric

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