I hadn’t seen the stage version of Les Miserables, but had heard people say how great it was. I thought that a good way to test the waters and see if I would enjoy the stage performance would be to watch the new movie by Director Tom Hooper. I really hope I was wrong to presume it’d be a good comparison. The movie came to cinemas in early January and has brought people flocking since. I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been more outcry.
While there were the occasional strong song (Anne Hathaway’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ cover and Samantha Bark’s ‘on my own’) the movie in general was riddled with errors. Everything from settings, to tone, and even basic film choices were flawed. Beginning with settings: some such as the house at the site of the revolution looked like they were part of a stage setting. I’m unsure if this was intentional, but it’s downright wrong. We had some general establishing shots which were all well and good. But when zooming out on a particular scene we didn’t always seem to be able to move passed what would be considered the ‘stage’. We watched the action from afar. The director may have been trying to manage the film so that it echoed movements of the stage, but it didn’t fit in. If you’re going to make a movie, make a movie… its already on stage.
Tone errors included the Thenardier and Madame Thenardier. Their song ‘Master of the house’ was fun, but it was a stark contrast to the rest of the film, which meant it got you by surprise. The tone of the rest of the movie was dark and realistic, but when it got to the Thenardier’s song, everything went awry seeing everything from slapstick falls to a promiscuous Santa. Such humour could have been included, but some smoothing over to introduce it might have been nice. By ‘basic filming choices’, I note the one scene where Jean Veljean is talking to Marius in the house and you literally have to tilt your head because the shot is jaunted… and for no particular reason.
Overall, I feel greatly let down with the movie. The director made some bad choices. On a brighter note, however, the songs were brilliantly done – even more so knowing they were recorded by the actors themselves rather than a pre-recording. The actors were also very well chosen. It was sure interesting to see Russell Crowe singing. It was just a shame that his death was more funny than shocking, with the comedic ‘thwack’ that sounded like something out of a cartoon. Theatre wins again, I think!