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Emotional at ‘Les Misérables’

January 9, 2013 - Pam Rodgers

I have been excited to see the “Les Misérables” movie ever since I first heard it was happening last January. I was bummed that I was out of town during Christmas and therefore couldn’t see it when it first opened; however, I was finally able to get to it on Friday night. I must say, I truly enjoyed the movie, shortcomings and all.

First a little background.

I have seen “Les Misérables” on stage twice. The first time was when I was in high school and then two years ago when I saw at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha. The music is very powerful. I have listened to the original cast soundtrack so many times I have lost count. So I am very familiar with the story.

I knew the movie would be different than the stage production. There is no way for it not to be. One thing I promised myself was not to be biased before I saw it.

As expected, the music and story were as powerful as ever. I was pleasantly surprised with how true to the original they were. I was able to pick out the difference, but only because of my familiarity with the original score. The new song, “Suddenly” was a nice add. It gave Valjean a tender moment with young Cosette that we didn’t have on stage.

The overall tone of the movie was spot on. It’s not a “happy” movie — it says so in the title. As I was discussing with a coworker, Director Tom Hooper isn’t afraid to get right in the actor’s faces as they sing their parts. It’s an interesting dynamic from the stage because no matter how good your seats are, you still must gaze from afar. It was good device because the camera angle leaves little doubt that performance was sung live.

The film drew me in from the beginning. I was living the tale with the characters — the same way I did when I watched it on stage. Some critics called the story relentless, which is true. However, I don’t see that as a bad thing. The story wouldn’t be doing its job or the music wouldn’t be as powerful if you didn’t feel every heartbreak.

My biggest delight was when Colm Wilkinson made an appearance as the Bishop. For those who don’t know, Wilkinson played Jean Valjean in the original London production of the stage musical.

“Les Misérables” is a tough project to undertake in film form. It is so loved in the theater community that it is impossible to please everyone.

Critics have been taking shots at the movie, especially at Russell Crowe. I agree that he was somewhat of miscast in the part, but it was a calculated risk to get a star in the role of Javert. He was out his element and his voice didn’t quite match the part’s requirements. I am so used to the booming bass of Roger Allam that it was hard to get that out of my to enjoy it completely. But I would say he did a serviceable job in the role.

Hugh Jackman played Valjean really well. He deserves the award nominations he has received thus far. I would be shocked if he isn’t among the Oscar nominees to be announced Thursday. At times the part seem a bit high for his natural range, but that didn’t bother me overly much. It was nice to see the other side of Hugh Jackman’s talents.

Anne Hathaway played the tragedy of Fantine very well. Again, the award nominations are expected and justified. She is only in about 30 minutes of the movie but her impact is substantial. I could tell through her performance that she really bought into the role. She did a fantastic job with the signature track, “I Dreamed a Dream.” (Move aside Susan Boyle!)

Well, I didn’t intend to go through all the characters. I just wanted to mention a few highlights. My favorite song has always been “Red and Black” and the revolution boys did a great job with that. I didn’t recognize the man cast as the leader, Enjolras (I now know his name is Aaron Tveit). His voice was excellent. I could tell he had a background in musical theater.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the movie. I will be happy to add it to my DVD collection when it is released.



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