Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love Letter to Les Misérables

(Note: May contain spoilers. Be warned.)

Dearest Les Misérables,

You took my breath away. There is no better way to say what you've done to me. No, I didn't die because of it, but I do remember literally holding my breath (as with everyone else in the cinema) while watching. You made us cry. I could hear my seatmates sniffing during the movie. I was a little more hesitant to let my feelings go, but in the end, when I stepped outside and finally realized the movie was over, well, you made me cry too.

You were so beautiful. I must admit that I am not your biggest fan. I haven't read the book. I have only seen the movie with Liam Neeson just last year. I have only listened to the musical last year also, and it was the tenth anniversary version, so everyone was either just standing or sitting down. This latest movie, however, is simply divine. You have melded together the plain movie and the musical seamlessly. You have shown that you are ambitious, and yet your effort has paid well. I salute you.

To the people who made this movie possible, thank you. 

The cinematography was beautiful. I couldn't help but feel a bit of Tim Burton in some of the scenes, but I guess I'm just biased when it comes to musicals and Europe. (I'm obviously referring to Sweeney Todd.) The buildings, the set, the sudden zoom outs, and the camera panning was a perfect combination of digital and actual (I think) shooting. It wasn't soft. (Soft being a term I use when the buildings and images look too smooth and computer generated.) I love your smooth transitions, from day to night, from year to year, from place to place. I love the way the camera pans and then everything just changes. I love the details. I don't know if there were chroma boards used (amazing if there weren't), but the backgrounds were a bit too painted for me. I mean, they weren't photo studio background types (like the ones studios ask you to stand in front of to make the picture look like it was taken somewhere else), but they did look a bit chalky. A bit too still too. Then again backgrounds don't really matter much when you have a cast as powerful as the ones you have. I love the falling furniture. I love the ship and the harbor. I love the effect of gun powder going off in the faces of the revolutionists. I love the seemingly lack of blood when the guns go off, then the red rainwater runoff on the streets after the fight. I love the stone walls of Paris. I love the colors of the scenes---warm, cold, bloody, and gray. I love the . . . oh, pfft, I love everything.

To the casting director, you had your job cut out for you, didn't you? Nevertheless, you did awesome. *clap clap*

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

I've only heard Hugh (feeling close? =) sing during the 84th Academy Awards, so I'm not very familiar with his vocal range. I know that he sings; he's obviously proven that with this movie. And I definitely know that he acts very, very excellently. Now combine those two talents and place them in a character role that has been probably coveted by numerous actors/artists and you get what we all saw Hugh did. His acting was impeccable. His role was the toughest because he had to be a convict, a mayor, a runaway, and a father all in one movie. He had to lose weight then gain weight. He had to age during the movie. And his eyes were very expressive. You could see his eyes burning, tearing up, or just dying 'til the end. Yes, he was the best choice, as Tom Hooper (director) had said. But I am a bit unsure about his singing. Given, his performance was amazing, but I guess I was expecting a deeper, manlier voice from him. His voice as Jean Valjean seemed too high. I could compare it to Christine in the Phantom of the Opera in Manila whose voice was too powerful for her character (remind me to post about POTO someday). There were high notes that seemed too high. He hit them and hit them well, no doubt, but something felt . . . different. Perhaps it's because I heard Colm Wilkinson sing those songs first. And yes, it must have been so challenging for Hugh to perform as Valjean when the original Valjean was also there, as the monsignor! Yeah, Colm has aged, but his voice is still as powerful and deep and enchanting as ever.

Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert

The first feedback I heard about Russell playing this role was from Adam Lambert saying that they made nonsingers sing and that ruined the movie for him. Well, I beg to differ. Again, I may just be biased because I love Russell and still think of him as Maximus no matter what movie he's in. His performance in Les Mis is still brilliant. Granted, his voice was "underwhelming" (a term from someone else), but I think he pulled it off well. I actually like his voice better than Hugh's. (Okay, pretend you didn't read that.) It was deeper and more . . . bass? Rounder, I would say. (I have adjectives for certain things that seem inappropriate for normal people, sorry.) I liked his songs. I loved his acting. I love his anger, his confusion. I love how he seems so mean, then seems so lost. I love his character, and I love how he brought Javert to life again. What I didn't love about his part was when he jumped off the bridge. I mean, really? The bone-breaking sound? Pfft. I was snickering silently in italics when I heard it. Cartoonish sound effects aside, Russell as Javert was awesome. I love how official he looked when he drew his sword to fight Valjean in the hospital when Fantine just died. He looked so posed and poised. I love Maximus! *hearts all over*

Anne Hathaway as Fantine

Anne couldn't have done it better. Her role as Fantine was epic. Her voice was amazing with a capital A. And the feelings! Her "I Dreamed a Dream" was epic. And to think all the camera focused was her face. There was nothing else to distract the audience with. It was like watching a live broadway musical with the singers right in front of you. You could see every expression that crosses their face, and Fantine's song had a lot of expressions in it. Anne's voice control was awesome. Hitting those notes WHILE crying? *jaw dropped* For such a short airtime, Fantine wowed everyone with her singing. Acting-wise, Anne was spot on. From the defending herself, to the cutting of her hair, to the you-know-what, until she died, she gave it everything she's got. She didn't care that she looked really (for lack of a better word) ugly during some of the scenes. Her face just contorted into something very human and unlike the faces we see in movies. When she cried, she just cried like every other human does---scrunched up face and all. Anne-believable. <3 (pun intended) PS I did think it would have been better if she wasn't wearing pink in the factory. She stood out too much even though she really needed to stand out. Just saying.

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette

There were many comments about Amanda not being a good choice for the role. I really have nothing to say to that. Whenever I see Cosette, there's always a teeny tiny voice in my head that starts singing "Honey, honey, how it kills me, uh huh." Yeah, that's from Mamma Mia. That was one of my comfort movies when I still had my VCD of the movie, and because I kept watching it over and over, whenever I see Amanda, I always associate her with the Mamma Mia. For her role as Cosette though, I think her voice was, hmm, amazing in terms of pitch. Man, she can hit those almost-whistle notes. She can also sing while crying, which is something this movie has a lot of. I'm going to stop with Amanda now before I start going on about her eyes. =)

Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Well, hello there, handsome! Hihi. See, that's my new crush. He's got the voice of someone I can listen to forever. I actually started daydreaming about bumping into him in a corner bookstore somewhere in London while I was singing Eponine's song to myself and he eavesdrops on me and . . . then I realize I'm still in the cinema, staring at his face while he sings about tables and chairs. *sigh* He's about to make waves in the movie industry if he wants to. His voice can drown me. The control on those low notes, whew. And his expressions of love, pfft. You're one handsome fellow, Eddie, and yes, I do want to bump into you in a corner bookstore somewhere in London while singing Eponine's song to myself and you eavesdropping on me. <3

Samantha Barks as Eponine

Now she's a surprise. She's new to me and very rarely does someone new make a tremendous impression on me. Samantha did just that. She's so pretty. And her voice is beautiful. She is awesome. Her first full body shot also took me by surprise. (I know the rest of the audience were also surprised, judging from the collective gasp/reaction I heard.) She's so thin. And I mean really thin. Was that her real waist? Nevertheless, she sings like a dream. "On My Own" has never felt so heartbreaking until I saw and heard her singing it. You could see her pain and the bits and pieces of her soul drowning in the rain. Her facial expressions were beautiful. I bet every other girl who has felt the way she felt also cried when she cried. Whew. I am officially going to memorize that song even if I can't hit her notes. And Eponine's dying song, "A Little Fall of Rain," was just . . . wow. I know I'd like Lea Salonga to keep her role as Eponine, but Samantha is doing great on her own. (Oh, pun.)

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers

Now I would be crazy if I forgot to mention these two. As usual, Helena is the best at roles like this. She and Sacha brought so much color and comedy to the movie that without them, it would actually be a bit of a drag. They were like breathing spaces for those who had to wipe their tears away before the next intense scene came up. The pair of actors were such a good match. I was half hoping that Johnny Depp would pop out somewhere or the rest of Sweeney Todd would make a surprise appearance. The Thénardiers make the movie so real. They make life during the French revolution so real. They bring the movie back down to earth with their antics and money-making schemes. And these two, Helena and Sacha, could do it in the movie better than anyone else. If anyone disagrees, then it's "off with your head"! =)

For the rest of the cast, you guys are awesome. I especially love Gavroche because he's still so young and his voice sounds awesome. He acts really well too. And I love the singers of "At the End of the Day" because they make it look so easy. The blending was flawless. It was beautiful.

By the time Javert threw himself off the bridge and Marius and Cosette finally got together, I didn't know what to expect. As I've said, I haven't seen the full musical and the plain movie version's ending was a bit vague. So watching Valjean die was something I didn't expect. And seeing Colm there meant he was dead too. And Fantine's appearance as a ghost was a bit funny, like a soap commercial. Then they heard everyone who died, singing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and it was the most beautiful ending I have ever seen. We couldn't wait to clap afterward. I wanted to do a standing ovation, but then I remembered that I wasn't in a real theater. It was the perfect conclusion to such an epic movie.

In the end, I guess what makes the movie so beautiful is that the story itself is timeless. We've heard about the story in so many ways. We've read references to the book and explanations on what really happened. We've seen the nonmusical version. Yet through all that, the reality of the story still draws us in. It is a story of humanity, of freedom, of the will and desire to change, of pride and denial, of love, of truth, of sacrifice. It is a story of how people can come together for want of change. A story of humanity's desire to be equal and yet, and the song goes, "we're only equal when we're dead." A story of heartbreak and hope. Les Misérables is a timeless tale, and the movie is definitely a must-see. Don't wait until it's too late to watch it on the big screen. It's worth every coin and minute you have.

Again, thank you, Les Misérables, for making my first movie of the year awesome. Thank you for your effort. You have made this girl's life and dreams ignite once more. Keep it up and God bless!

PS I probably forgot to write about other stuff I've noticed in the movie, but I'll let that slide. The point is, I'm inviting all of you to watch it and see for yourself what you would miss if you don't watch it. Get it? Got it.

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