Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The Miserable Ones
Tonight was perhaps the most captivating night at the cinema of my life. Our daughter Brannon treated us to Lex Miserables, the musical movie, at Ziegfield Cinema near Times Square in New York City. The theater was sold out so we were glad to find seats down close slightly to the right. I had the aisle, giving my aching legs stretching room, and my eyes a full view, sometimes of individual sweating pores and tears building to a drop.
I have a bone or two to pick, but let me begin by saying that it is a magnificent piece of film, creatively imagined, expertly cast, gorgeously photographed, dramatically lighted, really acted, beautifully sung.
Hugh Jackman will give Daniel Day Lewis a run for the Oscar for best actor. One of the beauties of this story, the musical, and now the movie is its reminder to those of us who live in comfort and plenty that poor, dirty, despairing folk are folk. Behind the grime, the pretense, the toothless grins, the overdone make-up, the ragged clothes, the unkempt hair, the poor English... are flesh and blood humans with the same wants and needs, hurts and hearts of all men. Jackman as Valjean is unrecognizable and totally believable in the opening scenes as the depraved, dehumanized convict.
And he becomes one of the beloved characters of all literature.
I thought Jackman's singing was sometimes a little nasal. Where Colm Wilkinson, very effectively and purposefully, used falsetto, Jackman used a full, though somewhat strained voice.
Fantine (Anne Hathaway),
not of her own volition, takes the opposite path, falling from virtuous and beautiful to compromised and pitiful. Both are outstanding.
My favorite character and the strongest acting and singing was that of Eddie Redmayne.
His portrayal of the distraught Marius singing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was heart-rendingly perfect. Redmayne deserves a supporting actor Oscar, in my humble and correct opinion.
Siblings Eponine (Samantha Barks) and Gavroche (Danial Huttlestone) were captivating.
The Thernardiers were well cast, though I thought (my kids disagree) that they were overdone. The disgusting food scene was more graphic than necessary and not believable to me. Like Sheila, I was glad they were made more disgusting than comic though.
Russell Crowe as Javert has received the most criticism of any actor in the film, I suspect. I actually liked his acting. His singing was a little weak, though I like its understated manner except for the suicide when I wanted him to give me more overt pain and... volume.
The 1200 sold-out seats at the Zeigfield were filled with Les Mis enthusiasts, like the Shaws, who applauded for the announcement, after interminable previews, of the main attraction. They also applauded individual songs again and again, especially I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and nearly brought the house down for One Day More and the Finale.
Drat it! One of my dreams is to sing the Valjean part someday in a local production or concert version. Folks will now picture Jackman (20 years my junior) in the role rather than an older Colm Wilkinson type. I'm already pushing the upper limit even with the Wilkinson image of ol' Jean.
Get your tickets. You don't want to miss this on the big screen, at least once. I'll see it again soon.