Monday, December 31, 2012

"To love another person is to see the face of God."

Our family capped off our Christmas season by attending this film.
First let me say that I have anxiously awaited this film since hearing it was a go.
In fact, when the casting directors were still trying to find their Eponine,
with a list including Scarlett Johansen, Lea Michelle and Taylor Swift,
I had to make my voice heard.
No disrespect intended toward these women, but they were all wrong.
I, along with many, tweeted, wrote and pleaded with the casting director
to consider the wonderful Samantha Barks for the role.
I sat 10 rows away from her as she performed that role at the
Queen's Theatre in London 2010.
Her performance was breathtaking and I just knew it would
translate beautifully to film.
So thrilled when the decision was made in her favor.

Now, as for the movie.
I loved it.
It was magnificent.
Heartbreaking, uplifting, exquisite
and masterfully directed. 
When I learned who would be directing I knew it was in the right hands.
Tom Hooper, who also directed "The King's Speech," one of my recent favorites,
was a brilliant choice.

I was troubled to read so many negative comments about the singing voices
right after the movie opened. My twitter feed was filled with mean-spirited 
criticism. Particularly about Russell Crowe. Even several film critics were
less than kind towards his performance.
So I went expecting something awful.

In Russell Crowe's defense, I thought he did a fine job.
He embodied the driven-by-duty Javert.
He is NOT a Broadway-styled singer. He has a pleasant, on-pitch, one-dimensional voice.
And there-in lies the problem for the audiences who adore the beloved stage musical.
The expectation was that the voices would be musical theatre voices,
the kind they had heard in the stage productions and on the CD's.

I was amazed when I learned that Hooper, rather than have the actors record in the 'safety' of
the sound studio and later lip-sync while filming, would have the actors sing live with an ear
piece and a rehearsal piano following in their ears. (No auto-tuning here folks.)
Never before have actors sung live on set with the orchestra added post-production.
Thus allowing the actors to perform their full-range of emotion with the song
becoming an extension of that emotion.
This is an actors film.
As a former actress/singer myself, I was absolutely stunned by how the actors could sing with
such vocal control whilst tears streamed.
I loved how the actors were given the freedom to act the song.

And yes, some of the actors had stage-singing backgrounds, some did not.
Give or take a few numbers, this is not a soundtrack you would want to own.
Instead buy the Original London West End CD, the Original Broadway CD
 or the 25th Anniversary CD instead. 

Some of the actors were a revelation. 
I have been a fan of Eddie Redmayne (Marius) for quite some time.
He is a classically trained actor, Cambridge graduate and Oliver Award winner.
I had no idea he could sing so beautifully.
His gut-wrenching "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" just leveled me.

And Anne Hathaway. When I heard she was willing to cut off all her hair on film, be the vulnerable 
actress, bare her heart and soul through this character, I knew this would be her moment.
Give her the awards already. Wow!

 Hugh Jackman. He was outstanding.
So in awe of how he prepared for this role.
He read the entire novel twice. No easy task.
And he reread particular passages right before filming certain scenes.
He lost 30 pounds and went 36 hours without fluid to look gaunt for opening scenes.
After a particular bad rehearsal he told his wife,
"I might have bit off more than I can chew here. Maybe I'm not the right person."
She cut him off and said, "Hugh, if you didn't feel like that you wouldn't be
right for the part. You should be daunted by this challenge." (Parade)

And I mustn't forget the children.
Excellent casting.
Awesome little actors and singers.

Could you tell that Aaron Tveit has starred on Broadway?
He has performed in Wicked, Hairspray and originated leading roles in
Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can.
Love his vocals and the passion he portrays in his Enjolras.

(The guy front right below Eddie Redmayne was the Marius we saw in London cast 2010.)

In my opinion.
Perfectly cast.

And now may I suggest, if you have not already,
go read the book.
All 1200 pages.
I did.
A masterpiece.
Nothing compares.