Little Kiwi and Bauhaus

Little Kiwi and Bauhaus
A Boy and His Dog

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Getting it Right - Les Miserables 2012

Well, this made me bawl my freakin' eyes out.  Weeks ago there was a leak of this trailer in low quality, and the Broadway hounds pounced.  Let'em.  I like this.  Friends and I long talked about how great it would be to see a Les Miserables film musical that had the balls to be a grim, dirty, ugly production where people cried, had snot on their noses, ugly teeth and generally looked like they smelled awful.  You know, cuz they're so Miserable that they're Les.  Tom Hooper, a rather brilliant Oscar-winning director (The King's Speech, yo!) seems to have nailed it, at least from this trailer. Yes, the LES MISERABLES 2012 FILM TRAILER!
Yeah, I like this.  And yeah, I'm one of those homos that doens't get the appeal of Patti Lupone so I'm pretty darn thrilled that Hathaway is singing like her heart has just died, as opposed to singing as if she has a big old BELT in her and she wants a Tony award.  Suck on THAT, Lupone.

Les Miserables is a film property you have to work your ass off to screw up.  You get handed those characters, in those situations, with those songs and it's your job to lose.  You get to film "One Day More" - quite possibly one of the most stirring moments-of-song in modern theatre history.  You get to have a wee poor lass sing her unrequited love as she lays dying of a gunshot wound in the rain, happy for the first time because the man she's always loved will simply *hold her* while she dies.  You get a young boy shot to death while collecting bullets.  Basically, people die every five minutes, and yet your soul is stirred and moved, as opposed to just plain depressed.
We all want to see Eponine die in the rain (it's this show's "And I Am Telling You..." moment).  We all love Eponine in Act II, Cosette not so much.  Sure, she was cute when singing that treacly ballad as a kid in Act I (please feel free to cut "Castle on a Cloud", Mr. Hooper), but then bitch grows up and gets life handed to her.  And no matter how well cast he is, Marius always comes across as a putz, sorta like Chris in Miss Saigon.  No matter how good an actor you are, you look like a wimp next to the ladies you're opposite.

I cannot wait to see this film.  Broadway-to-film translations have a tricky history.... so many times they get what made the stage show magical utterly wrong.  I've been forgiving to some, critical to others.

Chicago? Sublime. Perfectly cast, stylish as hell, and the score sounded sexy as all get out.  I can literally watch this film ALL THE TIME.

Mamma Mia!? Well, I have a personal connection to the stage show and thought the film was badly shot (Greece has never looked uglier), unimaginative (don't just point the camera at people, use it to TELL THE STORY), and I couldnt' figure out why everyone seemed 20 years too old for the role.  Meryl talking about how hard it was to be a single mother? In the 1980s? When she was, apparently, in her mid/late-thirties? No, sorry.  You're a wonderful actress but you're wrong in this role. And Pierce Brosnan can't sing.  Some good acting performances, to be sure, but for me the film is saved most by Amanda Seyfried, who is heartbreakingly sweet.  This show doesn't need to be a puff-piece; cast the right group of actors and you have a terrifically engaging and emotionally moving experience.  Trust me, I'd know.  ;-)

Hairspray? Fun, but with no weight. No pun intended. Miscast roles with people who couldn't actually dance or sing, in a show about the joy of dancing and singing.  Meh.  It was fun, enough.  But the stage show packed an emotional punch and reached levels of outright joy that this film just didn't reach.

Dreamgirls? A beautiful production, slick and gorgeous, and acted with passion yet still missing the hard-edged grit a black filmmaker would have likely brought to this specific story. Hudson is Queen, yet Beyonce deserves credit for actually singing below her own abilities in order to convey the talents of her character.  That's a good thing.  I like this film.

Rent? Fabulous.  If you're 12. And have never seen the stage version. And don't know what AIDS is.  It was too glossy, too pretty, too art-directed, and unfortunately brought out the undercurrent that this is a show about a group of young people who are against everything and aren't actually FOR anything. At all. And yet.....I own it. On DVD.  Because I still like to have individual moments available for my viewing at the click of a button. . Sue me. My sister was unfamiliar with RENT until she saw this film, and she LOVED it.  So, as an intro for newbies it seems to do the trick.

The Phantom of the Opera?  Ok, well, I actually love this one even though I know how badly-directed it is.  Why do I love it?  Because it's a preposterous over-the-top gothic melodrama that rocks it balls-out.  Plus, Emmy Rossum is ravishing as Christine.  She stepped onscreen and my heart skipped a beat.  I swooned. It was simultaneously the gayest and straightest I've ever felt in my entire life. Plus, I wanted to have mad sex with the Phantom.  I don't know if I'm supposed to feel that way, but I'm not going to complain. Rock me, sexy Phantom!  Schumacher perpetually has his camera in gorgeous places, but the wrong ones - yes, your sets are faaaabulous. But please allow the camera to linger over the luminous Emmy Rossum a bit more.

Sweeney Todd?   This one works great as a film.  It's lacking what I loved most about the stage version, namely the chorus numbers, but the film works as a dark intimate and chamber piece.  The design is great, the actors put thought into their characterizations, and the score sounds lush.  Are the vocals stellar? No.  But they're not bad at all, and in the film's context they work.

The Producers? More boring than church.  Point and shoot filmmaking at its most mundane.

Little Shop of Horrors?  Ok, freakin' amazing.  Yes, the ending is different. Yes, some songs are missing.  But this film is a raucous delight.  Ellen Greene recreates her stage role and is PERFECTION, in fact there are no slackers in this cast.  Everyone nails it.  The visual effects bringing Audrey II to life as astonishing, the film has the perfect backlot-feel of a classic Hollywood musical with the dark humour of Roger Corman.  I love this film.

NINE?  Eek.  Well, here's the thing - the women are fabulous. Scene for scene, the film works.  But it doesn't add up to anything as the final resulting message is THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE MESSAGE OF THE STAGE SHOW!!!  Cruz is a knockout, Cotillard is a heartbreaking wonder, the film looks incredible, Fergie (against all odds) is a dynamo in her number and even the fluff-numbers of Kate Hudson have a certain flair.  But the film leaves you empty.  Ravishing to take in, but no substance.

Evita? I love every single fucking thing about the film version of Evita.  So fuck off.  I love it, everyone in it is amazing, including Madonna who is perfect in every way.  If you disagree you can kindly fuck the fuck off.  The orchestrations are killer, Pryce and Banderas sing with fire and passion, but it's Madonna's show and she knocks it outta the park.

SWEET CHARITY - prepare to have your heart lifted, and then broken into a million pieces and then stitched back together again with a thread of Hope. Flawlessly filmed and acted, with iconic choreography.

And now we come to Les Miserables, this Christmas.  I am literally counting the days.  And I'm stocking up on Kleenex.

EDIT - saw Les Mis in a packed cinema on Boxing Day with my family.  And we all wept buckets.  Many hate this film.  I dunno. It worked for me.  I liked the rawness of the vocals, i liked all the close ups, the swooping camera moves, and i liked that it sounded like people singing monologues, not vocalists showing off their chops.  I have my quibbles (Jackman's choice to BELT Bring Him Home!?!?) but more often than not I was completely caught up in the melodramatic sweep of it all. Would I buy the soundtrack album? Of course not. I have the London and Broadway casts, but this is a Blu-ray I've watched more times than I should admit. ;-)


James Figueiredo said...

- "Rock me, sexy Phantom!" should be an entire actual musical all by itself.

- I am shocked there's no Rocky Horror Picture Show on this list.

- For someone who spent his younger years telling anyone who would listen how much he hated musicals, I'm also shocked that I've seen every one of these movies, and am excited to see Les Miserables when it opens. I've turned into such a musicals queen!


Tina said...

What about Hair? I haven't seen it on stage but LOVE the movie, and West Side Story of course is fantastic. I agreed with most of what you said besides Dream Girls, which was a snore fest and I love Rent, and I think it gets the message across just fine! I can overlook a little bit of pretty :p

Choklit Daddy said...

Great list, and I pretty much agree with everything, even (I swear) Evita. But, as someone has already pointed out, no Rocky Horror?

Anonymous said...

actually, you have just proved you aren't a fan of the Diva Musical. By not mentioning any of the Sondheim greats (at least Sweeney Todd, if you want to stick to the movies-out-of-musicals routine), and talking about that Lloyd Webber crap (sorry, but Les Miz and Phantom are such generic drivel that I hadta say it) while failing to mention "Sunset Boulevard", I think you have effectively proved that you aren't a great judge of musicals. Also, don't even begin to compare live performances with films. I'd like to see Anne Hathaway (who I like) sing a single LuPone staple live! As for Madonna in "Evita", well, even Michelle Pfeiffer would have been a better choice. Just listen to the original cast album and then to the movie OST, and you'll get my point.
Anyhoo, you are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine. Peace out.

Little Kiwi said...

uh, "Ronnie", Sunset Boulevard has not been made into a film musical. Yet. This is about film adaptations of stage musicals. That's the point of this post.

Anonymous said...

Ray -- you are ABSOLUTELY spot-on with each of these musicals (imo). I need to see Evita again b/c I haven't seen it since college but I remember liking it and loving the clothes. I even LOVE this Phantom. It is gorgeous eye candy ... and I love the Masquerade number. LOVE IT.

I'm not too suprised that you nailed each of these as you told me a couple of years back to read and see Lolita (the Adrian Lyne/Jeremy Irons version) and both devastated my soul. (this was all via Connexion) Thinking of them ... sigh ... make(s) me feel as if I am slowly dying of heartbreak.

My old computer died and I lost everything on it ... so I just ran across this site of yours again. Glad to read some of your more recent thoughts. Take care, Thomas

Anonymous said...

dude, yeah, that was a boo-boo. mea culpa.

Anonymous said...

i went to try out some singing teachers at a local music school. The first woman I had, was young, seemed fresh out of school, very into musical theater and opera.
We were looking for songs to sing, and she said "Do you know Rent?" And I said, I've seen it once.


Its like I just don't. None of the songs stuck with me.

"When did you go to school"

I said in the 90s, then she said "oh well it was so popular then"

needless to say, she is NOT my voice teacher!

Little Kiwi Loves Bauhaus

Little Kiwi Loves Bauhaus
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