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Monday, December 31, 2012

Yes I Hear the People Sing But What About the Rest of the Music?



 I know you need another "Les Miserables" movie review like you need another Facebook status mentioning someone's gym habits or other menial events but I am compelled to write this.  I am not going to summarize the plot of the movie like other reviews partially because you can google it and mostly because very few people are going to even read this.

  Here it is - down to brass tacks (whatever the hell that means).  I hesitate to review actual performances for a few reasons - the most important of which is that my problem with this film has nothing to do with the many performers who clearly had passion for the project and the desire and some of the talent to pull it off.  The least important being that it is obvious that the casting of this and every musical theatre film (and often Broadway productions) these days has about 1% to do with appropriateness of age/type or vocal ability and 110% with star names. I know the deal.  As a musical theatre lover I am giddy when they make a movie musical but not because I fool myself into thinking it will ever do the actual show full justice.  I expect to be less than thrilled.  But that does not mean I go to the theatre jaded and ready to despise it.  I am giddy they are making them since that means MANY more people may have the opportunity to fall in love with them like I did.  I was raised on movie musicals.  I don't even mean the original ones of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.  I mean the ones like "Annie", "Oliver", & "Little Shop of Horrors", "West Side Story" and all of the Rodgers & Hammerstein too....but also some of the most terribly acted and just barely sung "A Chorus Line" and more doozies! "A Chorus Line" is like that phrase - "A face only a mother could love."  Only a girl who would eventually find her life's dream in those movies of one day performing on Broadway could love that film.  But they knew what was important.  The music.  When I watched "Les Miserables" last night I was appalled at how embarrassed this director was of the music --- the accompaniment was often barely audible and rarely matched what the performers were doing with their tempos in their lyrics.  Sometimes it was as if the actors themselves were embarrassed of their singing - not actually belting (as some here are able) or singing in a full legit sound (as a few here were able) as this music was meant to be sung for fear that audiences there for Wolverine and The Gladiator might not like it.  I do not blame the performers for this at all.  It is clear that someone's idea for this film was not to make it so musical-like which is especially off the mark with a show which is ENTIRELY MUSIC.  The entire heartbeat of the show was 100% missing.  The performers had passion individually but there was no glue holding them all together.  I am aware that director Tom Hooper attempted to utilize a wonderful idea for the filming of these songs - which is not normally used for movie musicals - and had live singing with the live accompaniment fed into their ears to allow for a more natural and real live performance feel.  I love this idea and am horribly disheartened at the end result.  I think this is the key to why this film is a flop.  The orchestrations do NOT match the live singing in tempo or in the physical volume of the audio tracks - ever.  I do not know if an orchestra was conducted to match the film and I can only imagine how difficult that process would have been.  All I know is that it was a necessary part of the process that seemed to have been rushed through.  Either that and/or those who then synced the vocals with the orchestrations in tempo and audio levels dropped all their balls.  As a result, the entire movie was a really slow and boring disgrace.  I couldn't even hear the singing at the very beginning and then I barely ever heard the accompaniment throughout.  If I knew nothing about this show the only thing I'd know when it ended was how happy I was.

  I'd rather not get to detailed about opinions of the cast though I did enjoy Samantha Barks' "Eponine" and yes, Anne Hathaway had some magical moments as a too young Fantine.  While well cast - Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter appeared to have been inappropriately directed to be in a Tim Burton film rather than into the broad comedic relief of their actual characters in this show.  The awful muppet sounds of Russell Crow's singing are the LEAST of this film's worries.

  While I fully expected to be slightly disappointed with this film -- as I am about several movie musicals - the one thing I can always walk out saying is that I am just glad they are making them.  While I hope they continue making them - I hope no one ever makes the same mistakes they made in this one.  Go back to lip synching if you are too lazy to do the rest of the work.  And stop apologizing for the fact that it's a musical --- let it be one.  SCADS of people LOVE them - and more will begin to if you remember this.