Les Misérables

This is the second costume drama adaptation I’ve watched in two weeks, and it’s certainly the more melodramatic one: the plot is thicker (compared to Anna Karenina), I could hear people sobbing behind me during the film, AND they also clapped at the closing credits! As I watched the film, I had to think about why the classics are the classics (I don’t buy the universal themes thesis) and I came to the conclusion that their success must always be historicized. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy these films, but I couldn’t stop myself from objecting to all the coincidence and stark contrast in their plots. Well, we enjoy the classics in a different way and for a different reason, (and no wonder their adaptations are called costume/period drama).

The fact that this was a musical, which meant that the dialogues (and the monologues) were sung, made it more interesting, though some of them sounded absurd when sung. And, at the pace of a film adaptation, the dilemmas expressed and the choices made in those lyrics don’t look realistic – it all seems too quick. Apparently the director has had the actors sing while on stage, rather than have them lip-sync to pre-recorded music. I’ve read & heard critics say intelligent things about this technique, and they agree that it adds vigour to a musical.

Actingwise, Hugh Jackman’s compelling performance struck me early on – many of my favourite scenes include him. Well, he was playing the virtue incarnate, but he was doing it very well. According to Wikipedia, he lost 15 pounds and later regained 30 pounds to mirror his character’s success. And in order to keep his vocal cords in good condition, “He avoided coffee, warmed up at least 15 minutes each day, kept Ricola lozenges at the ready, drank as much as seven liters of water a day, sat in steam three times a day, took ice-cold baths and, for plane rides, flew with a wet washcloth over his face.” Anne Hathaway was also brilliant but at times I thought she was overdoing the emotions. I was disappointed with Russel Crowe, who somehow looked robotic (see Onion review). In the early rooftop solo scene for example, he looked as if he’d swallowed a stick and didn’t know what to do with his hands. Although I find Sacha Baron Cohen very unattractive, him and Helena Bonham Carter made a hilarious couple – their role was to bring in the comic relief I believe. The actress who played Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) was really beautiful – (I can’t say the same thing for Keira Knightley, who played the irresistible Anna Karenina for example).

This will have to be the end of my cultural week I’m afraid, (I also went to the theatre last night) as I return to the world of office work.

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