Les Miserables – A Musical On Screen

I love this musical!

Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals.  I have listened to it for decades.  I know every track by heart as well as the lyrics within.  Tracks like I Dreamed a DreamThe ConfrontationCastle on a Cloud, and Do You Hear the People Sing – they move me every time I listen to them.  My friends told me that I should have watched the musical while I was studying in UK.  True.  But alas.  Back then, every penny counted.  Luxury was something for the future.  So, in short, I did not have the chance to visualize this musical, till yesterday when we watched Les Misérable, with the usual Movie Review Squad and two of our friends from Google+.  It was two men and three ladies.  The girls cried profoundly during the show.  I cried a little, inside.  TK cried for a totally different reason: Russell Crowe.

This movie stays more or less faithful to the original musical score.  To that end, I have enjoyed the delivery thoroughly because I am so familiar with the music.  On the flip side, since I have an exceptionally high expectation on how Javert, Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette should sound like, I feel somewhat let down by the fact that not all the actors in Les Misérables can sing musical scores.

Russell Crowe has played a stunningly convincing stern looking police inspector.  Almost as convincing as Geoffrey Rush in the 1998 film adaptation of the same musical.  Sadly, Russel Crowe is also the weakest singer among all.  I cringed uncomfortably whenever he sings.  Huge Jackman, on the other hand, has done a much better job as Valjean thanks to his experience in theater.  Combined that with his acting skill, some scenes are pretty powerful.  Amanda Seyfried takes up the role of the most loved character Cosette.  She has sung in the movie Mamma Mia!  She sings OK in Les Misérables.  Not spectacular but OK.

Anne Hathaway’s performance is a surprise to me.  I Dreamed a Dream and Fantine’s Death: Come to Me are so moving and I have enjoyed every moment of her acting.  She deserves to be recognized, especially for her act in I Dreamed a Dream.  Definitely the highlight of the entire film.

During the movie, I observed that actors’ lips match perfectly with the singing as though it was recorded live.  I read later on that the singing was indeed recorded live and the orchestral tracks were added as a post-production activity.  This would mean that the actors have to act and sing perfectly in one take for each song.  Pretty amazing.

After watching Les Misérables, one question I have is: Do we need movie stars for a musical film?  Or would real theater actors from this very musical do a much better job?  I suppose in a film format, star power and acting is as important as singing, if not more.  Many of the scenes that move me emotionally are performed by the movie stars.  It is a trade off I guess.

All in all, I am happy that finally, I get to put all the musical notes and lyrics that I have learned by heart all these years into faces and scenes, visually speaking.