Some thoughts on the movie which I saw on DVD last night.
It was sadly disappointing, in so many ways.
I first saw Les Mis on the stage with my partner many years ago, when the show visited Singapore and played at the Kallang Theatre. Gosh now that I think about it, that was about twenty years ago. And we so fell in love with it that we quickly decided to see it again while it was still in Singapore, and convinced two friends to join us. Over the years until today I still enjoy the beautiful songs from the show. My favourite is ‘Stars’ sung by the character Javert. Yup, not One More Day or Bring Him Home, not I Dreamed a Dream or On My Own, even though I love them too plus many others, but Stars, haha.
Anne Hathaway as Fantine performed as greatly as the reviews say she did. She really is the best thing in this movie. To be honest I never cared much for the role of Fantine in the story, but I remember another actress also did a brilliant job in that role. The gorgeous but frequently under-rated Uma Thurman, in the 1998 non-musical version of Les Mis. Frankly when I read Anne was onboard in the latest 2012 version, I don’t know why but I immediately assumed she was going to do Eponine, which I believe Anne would totally do a great job with as well. She would pull off a slightly haggard but of course still beautiful street urchin convincingly.
I can’t say the same for Samantha Barks who played Eponine. I felt her acting was stiff and while her singing was okay-good, it was not great. Her On My Own was quite bland, certainly not anguished enough. Her Eponine was too precious and princessy. And to make it worse, even her make-up artist and hairstylist did a terrible job on her role. I mean, my goodness, her teeth were so nice and white, and even her eyebrows were nicely and perfectly shaped. She looked way too healthy and pretty for someone forced by her parents to join them living a life of crime on the streets, conning people. I’m nit-picking maybe but Eponine, the tragic under-dog in love, is a role in the musical I love very much and it’s surprising and annoying and sad at how badly she was done here.
Russell Crowe was terrible. Damn it pains me to say that. I love that guy; I loved every single performance of his I have seen before, so this is the first one ever which I didn’t like. His Javert is unfortunately bad as I’ve read it is. I didn’t want to believe it, but yeah, now I understand why all the howls about it. Well I didn’t hate it, and through his singing I tried telling myself, “That’s just his interpretation. Every actor has a right to interpret the material his own way”, but to be honest I think he did suck in this. And he screwed up Stars, dammit! That was a beautiful song! My favourite! I feel bad for him because he’s incredibly good in all his other roles before, and also of course because he’s so damn hot. I just don’t understand why he’s so flat in Les Mis. Yes, Javert is strong and stoic and unflinching, but that doesn’t mean he has to be so boring and colourless. Then, in his last scene, Russell finally started to turn it on, and flashes of the greatness he’s capable of started to shine through in that scene, but oh it was much too late by then.
Why oh why wasn’t he cast in Mamma Mia! (2008) as one of the three potential fathers. Then people could’ve known his singing range, like we now know the singing abilities of those three actors in that movie, then maybe he wouldn’t be cast in this. Javert deserved so much more. Oh poor Javert. If this movie was non-musical like the 1998 one, Russell would probably be perfect for the role. Well, fellow Australian (and fellow Oscar winner!) Geoffrey Rush did that Javert, and he did a fantastic job with it.
Hugh Jackman was breathtaking as Valjean. I don’t believe I’ve heard him sing before, and his talent is impressive. This is also the most dramatic role that he’s done that I’ve seen. I just realised I’ve never been a big fan of Hugh, despite the X-Men trilogy and many other movies I’ve seen him in, until now. I mean yeah sure as eye candy he’s incredibly good-looking and smoulderingly sexay for sure, but as an actor I just wasn’t interested in him as say, Russell, who I’ve been a big fan of for years. But Hugh was totally mersmerizing in this, and now I certainly look forward to catching him again in other roles, singing or not, and especially dramatic ones.
If it wasn’t for Hugh and Anne Hathaway, I would wish I hadn’t seen this Les Mis. Now anxiously plugging into iTunes to listen to those songs again, to be reminded and be assured of their timeless greatness, of my love for them.
Here are also a couple of fun videos I came across on YouTube. (Note: contain spoilers.)