Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:41 PM
Saw the movie. I am probably one of the few that will not be singing its praises. But it is my opinion. I believe it is very well acted as a performance musical.
Spoilers follow so please do not read if you do not want to know.
You do not see this movie and expect to hear gorgeous voices because you will not get them. Yes Sam Barks and Eddie Redmayne sing very well, but really apart from the ensemble, which consists of many WE performers, vocals are not memorable. I was especially disappointed in any vocals by Hugh Jackman. I found them weak and Bring Him Home was just painful. Especially when you have heard John Owen Jones or Ramin Karimloo sing it.
That said, I do not think vocals were the point of this movie musical. I believe it was a script set to music. Ann Hathaway will win the Oscar for this performance. She brings all the angst and emotion you can to that piece. Would this work on a stage, never. On stage you want to hear it sung. It works in a tight close up showing her pain. That can be said of all the "songs" they are individual performance pieces filmed in ultra close ups. Eddie Redmayne's Empty Chairs is interpreted in the same vein, but he sings it more and its well done. The movie is always in close up. From the beginning when you see the plight of the people you will see the screen pan to one or two individuals in extreme close up. I believe this lessens the effect of a close up when you see it all the time. It actually makes the confrontation my favorite scene since the director decides to show a complete shot of Valjean and Javert's bodies as they fight rather than a disembodied head. The Thenardier's are turned into comic characters. Dog Eat Dog is cut so you really never see his vileness. They are simply turned into greedy harmless comical characters. He just turns up when Valjean is in the sewers taking the ring off Marius. The ending is also changed for Valjean's death. No Eponine. Fantine just appears at his head and you get a close up of both their heads together as she sings. They leave and he goes to the Cathedral where he is greeted by the Bishop and then they turn to the Barricade where all of Paris is singing and all the dead are on the barricade singing joyfully and smiling.
I must mention the iconic scene of Enjorlas getting killed. He now falls out the window into the pose but it is over in a blink so the power of it is never felt. In fact Enjorlas is not a very powerful character here. The leader yes, but leaderish, not so much. They should have given David Thaxton a chance in the part. There is a scene afterward between Javert and Gavroche that is very moving. And Gavroche is excellent. However I do not remember him taunting the soldiers in the play he is sneaking. Here he is just taunting until someone snaps.
Filming the movie with live singing rather than prerecorded in a studio did give the actor's choices in how they wanted their songs to come out. So they are acted and emotional at the expense of beautiful vocals. If you have never seen the staged production you may love the movie. If you have seen musicals but like the idea of raw realism of performed acting while singing you may love it. However if you wanted to see the movie and still get the beautiful vocals you will not love it. A choice was made by the director and whether you share his vision depends on how much you will love it.
I liked it. Would I say its the best movie of the year - no. It was a different way to film a movie musical.
Would I buy the soundtrack? Definitely not.
It is fun though picking out Adam Pearce, Killian Donnelly, Fra Fee, Alistair Brammer and Hadley Fraser.