From the minute we opened with that familiar dramatic music, despite the somber nature of the scene, my face cracked into a giant smile. It was like coming home, and I never lost that feeling. Basically my only complaints are as follows:
1. There needed to be way fewer close-up shots in people's faces
2. Some of the singing in the first third tried way too hard to sound realistic for the circumstances (resulting in irritating whispering or raggedly broken half-speaking parts - I was eventually tempted to throttle people and yell "JUST SING IT STRAIGHT ALREADY!")
3. Two SERIOUSLY UNNECESSARILY SUGGESTIVE sex bits. I am decidedly rageful about the unexpected assault on my eyes.
4. In a film full of perfect casting despite so many big names, Amanda Seyfried's stupid face still bugs. I will forever imagine a fantasy version of this movie where Lea Michele is Eponine and Taylor Swift is Cosette.
5. Marius' singing voice was the worst (more on this later).
But the rest was great!
For some reason I didn't read much about this movie beforehand - which is funny, because it's the only movie ever that can't be spoiled, but I think I just got sick of reading complaints about my sacred production - so I figured they'd add some spoken scenes, and was pleasantly surprised that they stayed musical the whole way through. I even liked the new song, though how much was the song and how much of that was the sheer freaking adorableness of little Cosette curled up asleep in his lap, I can't say.
The rest of this post is going out bullet-points-style, despite lack of actual bullet points.
Russell Crowe gets my vote as the best singer in this film. Not even joking. Powerful and commanding from start to finish, the perfect Javert. Whereas the guy playing Marius should be drummed out of town for having the audacity to show up with KERMIT THE FROG VOICE, which I did not realize was going to be a brand new thing I have to worry about in every male soloist ever. Sometimes you can hear hints of it creep into even the best singers, but some of them just make that their particular brand of sound (PHILLIP PHILLIPS, I AM GLARING AT YOU). He was one of them. Which sucks, because Marius has kind of a lot of important songs/parts that I love in this soundtrack.
The internet has been so full of Opinions and general bitching about Anne Hathaway, and I have such a complex history with hating "I Dreamed a Dream" until Glee restored it (albeit in an edited/abridged version), I can't evaluate how well that song went. Parts of it fell victim to the broken/whispering problem and bugged me, parts of it got into my soul. What I can say for sure is that I really loved her parts in the song in the factory whose English name escapes me; her light lilt is ideal for a quiet lower register, just like rare vocal gem Dianna Agron.
DIGRESSION: Her hair was also so pretty at the beginning that, even though I know that's the point, it was really hard to watch her walking around with hideously shorn chop job. It sadly doesn't look any better in real life right now, which is a shame because in her natural state she's one of the most beautiful women ever. Though I did read that she cried for real when her hair was cut, and between that and starving herself to look emaciated I respect the hell out of her. In the context of this specific movie shoot, anyway, since most of the respect I had for her in 2002 is still gone thanks to her topless roles.
Matt Morrison gets to keep his crown as the champion of "Bring Him Home." Sorry, Jackman. You were great at everything else? (for what it's worth, I really did appreciate having Jackman to play the all-important Valjean. If I hadn't liked the casting choice there, it would have been ruinous)
Eponine remains the darling of my heart now and forevermore; I think I preferred this actress to either of the two fantasy names mentioned above. Although I was distracted by her unnaturally narrow wasp waist; she was like a walking Photoshop job, especially since her rounder face kept making me assume she had a curvier figure.
Young Cosette stole the entire show, as far as I'm concerned. What a precious little child, with the most haunting eyes and voice. "Castle on a Cloud" is one of my favorites.
Also my favorite: Gavroche, that obnoxious little street scamp, looking even more adorable and puppyish than expected.
In every production I have ever seen, Enjolras looks better than Marius. Today was not the exception; damn. And what a gutting way for him to go out - that made a bigger impression than his death usually does.
Although I could have grown fond of Marius if his voice hadn't been like aural torture. Between not being able to stand his voice or her face, it's kinda killing the important love story for me.
I somehow did not know that Helena Bonham Carter was in this movie, and my elation shot through the roof when I saw her. She was great. For the duration of the film, I was even able to convince myself that M. Thenardier was NOT Sacha Baron Cohen, so at least he disappeared in to the role. They provided the perfect comedic relief.
I was upset that "Turning" got cut down to eight lines. It's only a two-minute song before Marius starts his solo anyway, but the haunting all-women's chorus in the wake of the bloodbath captures the sense of wasted life and loss perfectly.
I knew it was a sad story, but I forgot just *how* sad. I cried at basically every death: Fantine, Gavroche, Eponine, and the one I managed to forget because I never make it that far on the soundtrack, Valjean himself. I'm actually impressed it got me that many times; some movies you go in knowing you're going to cry, but this one I wasn't sure until suddenly it was like a punch to the face, how fast and helplessly I lost it.
And of course, despite all the sad, then comes that last grandiose reprise of "Do You Hear The People Sing?" (one of the songs in which I prefer the English version), and I couldn't help a huge smile despite tears still pouring down my face. God, I am so proud of this musical. That's a weird word, but that's what it feels like. My introduction to it (a whole French class unit studying/translating each song's lyrics prior to hearing them) was just such a formative experience in my life, nothing is more satisfying than seeing/hearing it in full.
SO happy this film finally exists.
Meanwhile, in Goodreads land, where I have spent more time than on LJ so far this year (nooo, now I'm a deserter too, except instead of rejoining the party I went to an even more isolated place)...
200 new reviews later, BOOM, #1 U.S. REVIEWER FOR THE WEEK (quantity-wise). That should bring a nice spike in likes/follower notifications, an area in which I'm already doing modest but steady social capital business. Sometimes I feel guilty that most of said reviews are under 100 words long, but whatever, GR says they only have to be 50 characters to count. Also, 8 more and I will officially have a 4-digit number on my "read" shelf.
In Glee news, at last check-in Project Script Hostage had raised $17,000 in two days.
And I just saw on the main website something that said "We are pleased to announce a new partnership with Young Storytellers Foundation. [...] This partnership promises new and exciting things for the new year!" which makes me suspicious that this whole "buy a script more expensive than a brand-new hardcover book*! no sharing!" concept might become A Trend for 2013. Forget it, I'm going to take my chances on ill-behaved Tumblr pirates posting everything in defiance of the rules. At the very least, somebody should be able to summarize what happens in the deleted scenes, even if they can't repeat it word for word.
I can't believe none of these donating idiots understand that the appropriate response to Project Script Hostage was to sit quietly, possibly hold up signs stating "we do not negotiate with terrorists," and only very reluctantly make their "donation" on the last possible day to show their disapproval. I honestly can't believe how much I've grown to despise this charity in just 72 hours.
*if they would knock their requirement down to, say, $5, I'd be all in with no complaints at all.