Took the kids to see the new (Dec 25 2012) Les Miserables movie. We caught the noon show on Dec 26. Got there early enough to see most of the pre-show, and at a theater that has 20+ minutes of previews with every show, so we were there for a while. A small group came in 10 minutes late (i.e. during the previews) and decided to sit right next to us, which would be fine except that we had all our coats on that seat (the theater was barely half full) and the gentleman at the head of the party asked the 7-yr-old girl if the someone was sitting there, and when she answered “no”, he started to move the coats, which included dropping mine on the icky theater floor. I was pretty angry with him. But anyways, that’s not the point of this post…
The kids are pretty familiar with the plot of the book. They’ve listened to the soundtrack dozens of times, and watched the DVD of it a couple of times. We’ve talked to them about the plot, filling in details that aren’t in the play but are in the book.
Still, I figured that the movie would be fairly emotional, so I talked to them about it ahead of time, reminding them that although this is historical fiction, it is fiction nonetheless, and more importantly this is a movie, with actors playing roles. In other words, even if we see someone getting beaten up, or shot, or dying, they’re just pretending. And when the movie started, boychild and I exchanged a few hushed whispers about the actors (Hey look Valjean is Wolverine, and the Thenardiers are both in Sweeney Todd!). During the movie, they both did great. Girlchild seemed engrossed, and although boychild seemed bored, it was only that his mind was racing with questions that he was dying to ask me about how the actors managed to change their physical appearance.
So, guess who bawled their way through the movie? Yup, me. At one point boychild leaned over and offered me a tissue. I was sniffling and bawling pretty badly. “Bring him home” gets me every time, as do some other scenes.
Overall, the film was pretty good. I was annoyed that they cut out the singing interplay between the guards and the Bishop. The bishop being my favorite male part in the show, I was uber-glad that they gave that role to Colm Wilkinson, who I had been lucky enough to see in the Valjean role mumble-years ago. Also, glad that they brought the bishop out at the end instead of Eponine, who never made any sense in the last scene except for the fact that the role is an alto.
Was worried about Russel Crowe as Javert, and sadly he lived up to my lack of expectations for the first part, although he seemed to grow into the role (I’d be curious to learn what order they filmed the movie in). Javert’s whole purpose in life was as a rules-follower, and this (to me) came out in his character on stage as the one who sang in perfect beat. So, Mr. Crowe taking artistic liberty with the pacing just stuck me like a splinter under the fingernails. Like I said, though, he did better as the movie progressed.
Also, the director is fairly well known for his close-in shooting (srsly, the camera is inches away from the actors’ faces sometimes). This worked well as a technique for some scenes, especially for the early Valjean and Fantine, who can’t look you in the eyes… so when they do their best not to look at the camera, the trick works well. But for other scenes and characters, the method worked less well (or at least, Mr. Director, let them defiantly look straight at the camera).
I was a little worried before the movie about the Marius they chose (Eddie Redmayne), but really he did a wonderful job. He emoted well and also sang well. His unique look (all those freckles!) worked well in a cast full of Mariuses, too. (In the student tavern scenes, I kept looking at all the actors and wondering whether they had all played Marius in some production of the musical).
The actress they cast for Eponine (Samantha Barks) was also very well suited for the role. The costume they had her in was a little odd, in that it looked like she could snap in two at the waist, but she managed to sing despite it, and her broad face with tiny teeth somehow really suited the role (originally well fed but now less so). Which is odd, because all the pictures of her on iMDB show her as having a mouth full of large white teeth. So either they put makeup on her teeth or one set (the tiny ones in the movie or the big ones she normally sports) are fake. Whichever way it goes, it worked for the film.
My best praise must be saved for Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone) although it was a toss-up between him and the ever-solid Hugh Jackman playing Valjean. I can’t find much about young Huttlestone, except that he’s about 12 years old. His presence was rock solid, his singing clear and superb, and his poise evident. They did a bit with Javert and Gavroche after the kid’s death which I had to scramble to explain to the kids (i.e. it’s not in the book) which added a nice touch, too.
As usual, my kids were the only children in the theater. They were well behaved and seemed to appreciate the movie. I watched them quite a bit, and once again was struck by just how pretty their features are. Girlchild breaks my heart with how cute she is, and boychild’s recently developed freckles add an impish quality to his impossibly large eyes and long lashes, and perfect lips. But I digress…