oscar buzz: thoughts on les miserable, part two

I’m not going to pretend that I was excited to see this movie; or that I even thought the movie would be amazing. I came into this movie with very low standards. And you know what they say: Those who are pessimistic are either proven right or pleasantly surprised. Both proved to be true.

While some singers and songs were better than I hoped, overall, the slight changes they made, I did not appreciate at all. The largest ones I saw came, quite disappointingly, during my favorite songs.

I Dreamed A Dream: I have not hidden my dislike of Anne Hathaway from anyone. Sure, sometimes she’s a great actress. Other times it’s so painful I wince when I hear her voice. Luckily, this was not one of those times. She was definitely one of the best actors—and singers!—of the movie.

In My Life/A Heart Full of Love: This is one of my favorite trio songs. Unfortunately, the singers did not do it justice. If you saw the 25th Anniversary of Les Mis, then you know that Samantha Barks can sing. On screen, she was slightly less impressive–but I still liked her more than Amanda Seyfried. Seyfried’s voice is so high that Redmayne and Barks are also forced to sing high–too high for all of them–which means a loss of power behind their voices. Also, Amanda Seyfried doesn’t sing–she trills. Is there a more annoying sound than someone trilling? Someone half-heartedly speak-talking. Other than that, no.

ABC Café/Red & Black: This was one of my favorite songs of the entire movie. I would say that the emotion behind this song—as seen by the very close camera—is one of the highlights. It was also when it became apparent that, when not singing with Sefried, queen of trilling, Redmayne could sing!

My favorite line from this song–and from the entire movie? “It is time for us all to decide who we are. Do we fight for a right at the Opera, now? Have you asked of yourselves what is the price you might pay?” (Linked is the better, 25th Anniversary Version)

Drink With Me: All of the main lines were taken out. Because they cut it down to be about a minute long, all of the dialogue—the men debating whether going to war is the right thing to do, and their reminiscing about the good times they used to have been cut out. Even stranger; they took out all the women in the song. Where the back-up singers used to be women singing to their men, in the movie it is young Gavroche soloing. While this is a nice sentiment, the lack of interaction between the men and women is apparent. Because of this, it took away from the effect the movie could have had when the women are cleaning up the pools of blood on the ground after the battle.

A Heart Full of Love Reprise: This trio was so disappointing that I almost cried—which would have been the only time my eyes would have watered during the movie. In the play, the lyrics begin with Cosette and Marius talking about Mauris’ healing. This is a great song because, typically, it switches between duets and trios—starring Cosette, Marius and Valjean. Instead, they take out almost all of Maruis’s lyrics and turn it into a quartet, with a random man standing on the stairs. Do we know who the stairs man is? Do we ever see him again? Is it ever explained why he is singing with them? No. (Sidenote: There is no link for this song, because it was so horrible they decided not to add it to the album. This is a fact.)Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: I’ve already talked about the setting of this song; but Redmayne’s singing mostly acapella was a very nice touch. This was my favorite song of the entire play. This is also the only song I would spend money on and buy. Additionally, one of my favorite singers was Eddie Redmayne. It probably would have been Anne Hathaway, but she was only in the first half hour or so. Give me Redmayne sans Seyfreid! Both he and Hathaway are also the only actors who can talk-sing.

Talk-Singing:
This was easily one of the largest problems. It was more than clear that Hugh Jackman got tired of talk-singing halfway through the movie and simply gave up. He looked to be in pain–and I was in pain from hearing him. Just because they talk-sing all the lines in the play doesn’t mean you have to do so in the movie. And the lines of emphasis in the play weren’t even sung with power, or triumphantly. You’ve either got to get all the lines sung, or don’t talk-sing. And only Samantha Barks, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne could successfully talk-sing. Everyone else just meandered along. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for the actors–and it wasn’t at all fun for my ears.

Epilogue: You can just tell that Hugh Jackman is tired of singing. He went from singing and talk-singing to just speaking the lyrics! They also changed the lyrics from:
It’s a story of those who always loved you
Your mother gave her life for you and gave you to my keeping
To: Of one who turned from hating
A man who only learned to love when you were in his keeping

I don’t care if these new lyrics have better symbolism. You’ve thrown symbolism in our face the entire movie.

Anne Hathaway was great; however, they deleted Samantha Barks’ entire section, turning the famous duet into a slightly-more-boring solo. Horrible. I did enjoy the priest’s little part.

Fun Facts/Favorite Things:
-The priest was played by the original Jean Valjean from Broadway. No wonder his voice was so good. And what wonderful homage!
-My favorite singer of the entire movie: leader of the National Guard (who sang for about 30 seconds) was Hadley Fraser, who played Marius, Grantiere, and Javert on Broadway. In the 25th Anniversary, he plays Grantiere.
-And as much as I did not enjoy the changes they made, I did like the larger role Gavroche was given. Especially touching was Javert’s putting his badge of honor on a deceased Gavroche.
-I also really enjoyed the action scenes—particularly setting up the barricade; getting chairs and furniture in any way possible. Including kissing women to steal their seats. There’s no sitting during war–especially when that chair will help build a fort!

Biggest Disappointment: Samantha Barks. As previously mentioned, she killed it at the 25th Anniversary. I’m not sure if that was just because she was singing with Nick Jonas or what, but in the movie she was almost like a different, less interesting person. And despite all that, she was still one of the best singers, in my opinion.

Favorite songs: Red & Black, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Finale
Best singers: Eddie Redmayne (despite his “Kermit-esque” voice when hitting high notes), Anne Hathaway, Hadley Fraser, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit
Best performance: Red & Black, Empty Chairs, Finale

Worst song:
Bring Him Home: This is a song I would pay never to hear again. You can tell that Hugh Jackman hates this song—and I hate his rendition of it.

Worst singers:
Russell Crowe: His best performance was the song before he killed himself. And I still disliked that one.

Hugh Jackman: He started out pretty good, but then it all went downhill. I don’t understand—he was good on Broadway as Curly from Oklahoma. Maybe the moral of this story is don’t turn plays into movies, because they don’t turn out well.

Amanda Seyfried: She has the honor of being in both of the worst plays-turned-into-movies ever: Mama Mia and Les Mis. Just because you can shriek doesn’t mean you should sing—or trill.

I feel like the direction started out pretty strong—but Hooper started leading everyone in contradictory directions, and it did not turn out well. I don’t know where this movie went wrong, but I can stay without a doubt that I would be entirely happy never seeing this movie ever again. The play, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

-Please note that clicking on the titles will take you to the song on youtube.
-Also note that I would prefer that you listen to this: the entire 25th Anniversary with Ramin (black vest; later red coat), Hadley (green shirt), and Alfie (white shirt, or Jean Valjean), who should have been in the movie. Also, here are much better versions of Red & Black (which sounds awesome, despite Nick Jonas), Drink With MeIn My Life.
-Lastly, I did not review all of the songs, even though there were several that were more famous than the ones I chose. Many songs had been entirely deleted, or were pretty boring. For it to be on this particular list, the song had to be exceptionally awesome—or horribly bad. There is probably more of the latter than the former.

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