Saturday, December 7, 2013

Les Miz, the musical movie

"Les Miz" was on the Air Canada, seat-back media system on my flight yesterday from Calgary to Toronto, so I finally had a chance to see it.

Simply put, the musical performances were terrific, but the visuals and staging were not outstanding.

I've seen this show twice on stage, and the way it's presented there -- symbolically not realistically -- seems just right to me. Trying to present it on-screen, realistically, just didn't work.

The most significant example of this is in the final barricade battle scene. The way it is presented on stage -- using a stylistic barricade, and an awesome stage turntable -- is an incredibly heart-rending experience. It's just not reproducible on screen.

But the music is great. And the performers did a very, very good job. Much was made of the fact that the performers sang live on camera instead of pantomiming to a pre-recorded track, and this scheme really works well, allowing the singing performances to be striking and nuanced.

The musical performers at all levels were excellent. No weak spots.

Hugh Jackman's performance is no real surprise. And though Anne Hathaway is little known as a singer, she delivers one of the movie's most memorable singing performances with "I Dreamed a Dream".

The rest of the cast did great jobs too.

Eponine's "On My Own" is one of my favorites, and Samantha Barks performance didn't disappoint.

When this movie came out I remember some reviewers who were critical of Russell Crowe's singing of the role Javert. I disagree. His voice was strong and melodic. And he was just right as the straitlaced, give no quarter to anyone, inspector.

So I think this movie is worth seeing for the music and the performers. Be prepared to settle for a visual production that just doesn't click.

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