Friday, December 14, 2012

Les Miserables the Movie: All I Want for Christmas Is...

I have tickets to see the movie Les Miserables on Christmas Day.  Barring some major storm, illness, or accident, I will see the movie.  So often I thought this day would never come.  Yet now that it's almost here, I have just one problem: so many clips are getting released, I feel as though I've already seen the movie!

Not only that, but reviews are getting released right and left.  Most of them are not the least bit shy about revealing spoilers.  I've read at least five depictions of the opening scene.  I've read that Anne Hathaway is destined to turn me into a soggy puddle.  I've seen clips of "The Work Song," "What Have I Done?", "At the End of the Day," "I Dreamed a Dream," "Who Am I?", "The Confrontation," "Master of the House," "Suddenly," "In My Life," "A Heart Full of Love," "On My Own," "Bring Him Home," and "Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)."  I've heard an audio clip of "One Day More" and had to strongly resist listening to "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "LaMarque is Dead."

It's my own fault -- I'm just too weak.  "No, you need some surprise," I tell myself.  Then the next minute, I lose all self control.  At the same time, it's getting a lot harder to ignore the releases, given that the cast is everywhere promoting the movie, from Letterman to 60 Minutes.  I half-expect them to show up on The Daily Show before the promotion ends.  Some clips have left me excited, while others have left me uneasy.  But the biggest problem is that the combined information release has made it really difficult to make a "Ten Things I Really Want to See in the Les Miz Movie" list.  But here goes anyway. 

1.  No Flashbacks.  Evita was thick with them and the result was that it emphasized how weak the acting performances were.  By all accounts, Hooper has taken the opposite approach.

2.  No 3D.  What's that?  Hooper already decided long ago to make the movie 2D so no headache-inducing glasses would be necessary?  Thank God.

3.  Some Belting.  While I can appreciate the emphasis on acting over singing, that it is sometimes more appropriate to talk-sing than sing-sing, I do want to hear full-on singing at least some of the time.  And not just from the people we know can sing, like Samantha Barks or Aaron Tveit.  In the clips I've seen, Amanda Seyfried sings very softly.  I hope she belts it out on at least a couple of occasions, because while Cosette may be a thin character, she hits some pretty awesome notes.

4.  No Product Placement.  Actually, it would be rather amusing to see period-appropriate product placements, such as "Paris's Number One Horseshoe Outlet for 20 Years!"  But please no close ups of wine bottle labels, soldiers wearing Nike combat boots, or French flags subtly morphing into the Pepsi logo.

5.  No Made-up Characters.  I have no reason to expect any new characters -- that is, characters that did not exist in the novel.  However, I just got through watching the 1952 version of Les Miserables, which, for some unknown reason, gave Jean Valjean a BFF named Robert.  This Robert character followed Valjean from Montreuil-sur-Mer to Paris with more devotion than Javert.  What was the purpose of giving Valjean a best friend?  Valjean is supposed to be a solitary figure until he meets Cosette.  Was there some fear of having Valjean talk to himself on film?  If the 1952 film could deviate from the novel to this extent, why didn't it go all the way?  They could have turned Javert into Valjean's BFF who yearns to be more than a friend.  When Valjean spurns his advances, Javert becomes his enemy and vows to send him back to prison.  Mon Dieu!    

6.  No Characters Speaking With Random French Accents.  I'm not counting Sasha Baron Cohen's singing accent because it sounds like he uses it to underscore his character's silliness.  I'm referring to the situation where all of the characters are from the same country, but only one of them speaks with the national accent.  Examples include Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Madame Giry in The Phantom of the Opera, and Juan Peron in certain productions of Evita.  This never made sense to me.  If you're from the same country, you should have some variety of the national accent.  If one person has it, everyone should have it.  Fortunately, random French accents don't appear to be a problem in Les Miserables since all of the characters are apparently British.

7.  No Nudity for the Sake of Nudity.  If Fantine has to get partially naked, you could at least believe that it was appropriate for the character.  But I don't really need to see Valjean or Javert randomly strip and reveal full backside nudity in order to show how soulful or vulnerable they are, or Cosette randomly show her breasts to prove to us that she's a woman, or whatever.  It's just a cynical attempt to bring more viewers to the theatre.  One that would surely work, but would cheapen the movie in the process.

8.  No Anachronisms, Please.  No fist pumps followed by "Yesssssssss!" every time they shoot a soldier.  No Enjolras screaming: "I am a golden god!"  No peace signals, "Whatup"s, fist bumps, "I am not worthy" gestures, slo-mos of Cosette or Eponine shaking their long hair, or anything else that screams modern or recent movie convention.  I want to feel like I'm in the 1830s, and I don't need "modern" touches to make the musical more relatable.     

9.  No "It Was All a Dream."  There is no reason to believe this production of Les Miserables will be one where Valjean wakes up and says: "Man, that was messed up!" but some production at some point likely has, or will.  If a character dies, he should stay dead -- in the physical sense, at least.

10.  No "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"  I appreciate acting and emoting, but no overacting please!  It's a fine line between a moving emotional outburst and an eye roller.  A line that was unfortunately crossed by Grantaire in the 25th Anniversary Tour.  You don't want the audience snickering when it should be in tears.

So I guess this was more of a "Ten Things I Really Don't Want to See in the Les Miz Movie," most of which I don't expect will be there, thank God.  Which means that it is already well on its way to being a great movie.  Although I've seen more than I wanted to see, I still can't help thinking that by the time I see it in the theatre, it will feel like a whole new experience.  Let's hope.


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