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Les Miserables – the movie that tried to be a musical February 6, 2013

Posted by clintcarter in Movies, Music.

You might think from the title that I’m hating on the movie, but you would only be partly right.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I’m glad I saw it.  I recommend it highly.  However it wasn’t what it could have been.

There are 2 schools of thought regarding musical productions with most people leaning toward one or the other.  One school says that the music is paramount.  You only give a role to a person who has the musical chops to pull it off.  If they can act, it’s a plus – but they’ve got to have the voice.

The other school believes that the drama is what carries the production.  The characters must be believable, therefore you need someone who can transform into that character and take the audience on the journey with them.  If they can sing on pitch and have a decent range, they’ll work out great.

Both schools agree that the best solution is to find an individual who can nail both aspects.  But such individuals are few and far between so we end up settling for something on either side of optimal.

If I was a proponent of the drama school, Les Mis the movie would have achieved greatness in my eyes.  The characters in the main roles are all phenomenal actors in their own right and were even transcendent at moments (I’m looking at you Anne).

However, I don’t belong to the drama club.  I’m a card carrying member of Musicians Will Rule the World.  And so I was inevitably disappointed by the overall quality of the voices.  Going back and listening to the soundtrack without the aid of visual distraction only amplifies my opinion.

Overall Hugh did an acceptable job in his singing.  Although I wanted to stand up and curse when he started singing “Bring Him Home.”  That’s my favorite song in the whole production.  Couldn’t some vocal coach have taught Hugh how to use his falsetto?  He completely butchered the piece.  It was painful to be a part of that.

Russell Crowe. Do I really even need to go here?  Let’s suffice it to say that you are an actor extraordinaire Mr. Crowe, but I would not have allowed you to sing at my wedding.  Javert is one of my favorite characters from the musical.  When we saw Les Mis in October at the Civic Center with Andrew Varela playing the character, I was blown away by his voice.  When he sang “Stars”, his voice filled the whole hall and there was a moment of silent awe before the audience burst into applause.  Russell’s musical performance was so bad that I almost forgot that magical moment.  They should have used a voice-over for his songs.

Marius and Cosette’s voices were nice when they sang in ensembles, but by themselves their vibrato was too distracting.  Amanda Seyfried’s vibrato was out of control – sounding like a bleating goat.  Eddie Redmayne has a decent voice but the way he moved his jaw to create vibrato made me want to reach up onto the screen and hold his head still.  I had to stare at the background during “Empty Chairs” to enjoy the song.

Samantha Barks, Anne Hathaway, and Aaron Tveit all turned in excellent musical performances.  I was especially pleased with the song “Red and Black”.

Musically I was underwhelmed.  Visually I thought the work was excellent.  The scenes they added enhanced the story and I wasn’t bothered by the parts they left out.  If you’re looking for a good movie and you don’t mind singing, you’ve found one.  If you’re looking for musical excellence, I’d recommend watching one of the anniversary concerts of Les Miserables on Netflix.



1. clscholes - February 6, 2013

So….should I have seen it in the theatre or not?

clintcarter - February 6, 2013

If you still have a chance take Elizabeth and see it. It’s worth the $15.

2. Cindy Carter - February 6, 2013

Spoken like a true musician!

3. April Young - February 6, 2013

Agreed. I went and saw it with Mindy and said the same thing. 🙂

4. Mindy Hunt - February 7, 2013

So which soundtrack is your favorite? 10th or 25th or do they also fail to achieve perfection in your eyes?

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