I finally got around to seeing the movie version of the musical of Les Misérables. Before I discuss this movie I will admit that I’m not the target audience for it. I was not well acquainted with musical prior to seeing this film and while do like the idea of Musical movies I only really like a few of them. That said I really didn’t care for this movie, I didn’t hate I just didn’t like it. (WARNING; this gets ranty)
Les Misérables fails as movie. There is a visual language to movies that keep it interesting for a viewer. When a movie just has a actor perform without any camera work or interesting edits for 3 minutes the scene becomes stall. There is no point to filming a movie if you are not going to present the story in way that is visually interesting. I Dreamed a Dream is a prime a example.
Anne Hathaway gives a heartbreaking performance but after 30 seconds I became distracted by lacks of edits. How about a reverse shot? Even if was one take you can still have two camera angels. How about some zooms or pans. How about using the space in your sets? What’s with this stationary medium shot that is off center? It’s dull. The camera moves a bit but it’s really just to keep up with Hathaway’s movement and maintaining the frame. I understand that director Tom Hooper likes the off center placement of the shots and consider it “his thing”. It does promote a feeling of uncomfortableness and it worked well in The King’s Speech but it doesn’t work in Les Miserables. though it works in I Dreamed a Dream but I find it distracting after 30 seconds. Watching Anne Hathaway sing uncut for 3 minutes is not really any different from seeing the musical live but at least at live a performance you feel the energy of the actor. Then again, maybe I’m just heartless.
Then there is the issue that film doesn’t have any establishing shots and doesn’t give any indication of the passage of time. This make the narrative feel confused. But more than that without establishing shots you can’t see the sets. What is the point to having these sets that look like they could be great if you not going to show them to the viewer.
The point of taking a musical and making a film is to give the songs and story a visually interesting telling. The most interesting visual presentation of a song in this movie is Stars. Javert is walking on the edge of a bridge. That is interesting! (Even if Russell Crow was miserable in this movie) Jean Valjean pacing back and forth in a church, dull. Fantine crying about her life because of her crap day and half uncut, didn’t work visually . Epoine walking heart broken in the rain, zzzzzzz (and I like that song). What is the point of adapting this if your not going to be interesting with staging, filming or editing? Was it just to use establish actor is these roles? I think it might have been. Frankly I don’t give crap if the actor are singing live for a more a emotional performance. They played this way too straight. They should have been more artistic. The whole of this movie feels like gimmick to use the live singing and promote it. After all that seems what the film and the director are concern about not the viewer’s experience watching a movie.
However, because the film tries to play with the viewers’ emotions about these people we have to look at the characters to see if the film was successful. Because the film steamrolls over the narrative I can’t feel for any of these characters. It’s like BAM here is a character, BAM here’s their issue, BAM they’re in trouble don’t you feel sad? Answer, Not really. You meet Fantine, I don’t know who this character is so don’t feel that much when she goes through her hellish day and half (without time passage I don’t know how much time pass between her firing and death). How did she die? I know she dies of TB in the book but in the movie it seem it like death by plot….? Sorry Fantine, I wasn’t moved. I didn’t get a sense of your character so meh to you. Epoine same, you like Marius that’s nice he’s not into you….. ok…. oh you’re dead…… oh well. Javert’s obsession? Didn’t see it at all.
Oddly enough the rare lines that are spoken (like 3 lines) were most genuine parts of the movie. I feel like Hathaway and Jackman were trying to win awards. Crow didn’t seem to care very much. Redmayne, Tviet and Barks did seem to try and they were at least successful for the most part. I think Tviet was probably the best as Enjolras.
Do you hear the people sing felt like a movie, with visuals, that were slightly interesting, that kept your attention. Though I could do without the Dutch angles…. a pox on Dutch angles.
I feel like this movie was blatant Oscar bait and considering it was nominated or 8 Academy Awards and won three I guess it was successful. It also won heaps of other awards and earned $437,710,466 at the box office, its budget was $61,000,000, and grossed $376,710,466. So, it was successful at that end of movie making which is the important part for studio. The film however has a polarizing effects on audiences and critically was not much cared for. Had the movie had clear establishing shots, clear passage of time indication, and more interesting presentations of scenes and songs it could have been much better. But for m,e as a viewer, it failed to be visually entertaining and emotional interesting.