Penny and Circe spent
a day two days during the holidays exhaustively shopping for cocktail dresses designed to impress at an upcoming alumni event (take away motto: I hate everything). Following a restorative meal of delicious Indian curry and naan on the second day, they attended an evening showing of Les Misérables.
Here’s what they said coming out of the theatre. (For a quick rundown of loves and hates, scroll to the end of the page.)
Also: Spoiler alert(?????) Is this necessary? It’s called Les Misérables so you can pretty much expect a lot of people to die, but if your middle school didn’t see a touring production of this show in the early aughts and you don’t want to know exactly who dies just walk away.
Circe: WTF Russell Crowe.
Penny: WTF sound effects – I did NOT need to hear Javert’s spine crack when he hit the Seine. Completely unnecessary after all of the edge-walking on high ledges and very unsubtle directorial foreshadowing. But perhaps they needed all the unsubtle foreshadowing because Russell Crowe just did not bring the zeal I expect from Javert. His Javert didn’t seem to feel anything, much less with enough depth to warrant suicide by concrete dam.
Circe: I know! If I didn’t know the show, I would wonder why he killed himself.
Penny: But OMZ Enjolras? Smokin’.
Circe: If you mean Tripp van der Bilt from Gossip Girl? Then yes. Also, I love how they spell his last name so that they can get away with calling him a Vanderbilt…but that’s besides the point. Who knew he could sing, too??
Penny: And look so fired up and sexy about the rights of the proletariat?! That last moment before he died? Swoon.
Circe: I cried. No one that beautiful should ever die.
Penny: I liked how he hung out the window. Very artsy. I wonder if there will be posters…
Circe: You and death.
Penny: Graveyards are peaceful!
Circe: Yea if you find walking on a bunch of dead bodies and discarded heroin needles peaceful.
Penny: Speaking of dead people… Anne Hathaway’s Fantine deserves the Oscar buzz and people need to stop making disparaging comments about how the massive weight loss and on-screen hair hack-job means she’s practically gagging for it. I cried. I don’t cry.
Circe: So true. Appearance aside (which, I will admit, was pretty impressive), her singing was incredible and so full of emotion. I was completely enthralled by her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Penny: But can we talk about the whole emotion at the expense of the music thing for a hot second? Shouldn’t musicals be about the music first and the acting second? This movie was the exact opposite. I definitely prefer the stage show and the London Cast Recording. You can be emotional in a song without compromising the vocals! (Ed. Note: Freddie Mercury > Bob Dylan. Love, Polly)
Circe: I guess that is what happens when Hollywood actors are cast in musicals instead of Broadway stars…
Penny: Word. Eponine was awesome, though! (Especially when she died.) Not whiny at all. And Hugh got his start on Broadway. Although… those high notes.
Circe: YES agreed. I know this is basically sacrilege, but I was really unimpressed with his voice. I think maybe it was because with most of the songs, he had to kind of curb his full voice, but it just sounded kind of strangled a lot of the time.
Penny: Strangled is exactly the word for it. And Amanda Seyfried should STOP BEING CAST IN MUSICALS BECAUSE SHE CANNOT SING. Also, her face annoys me.
Circe: I don’t like her face either. But I don’t think she is a bad singer, and she makes a good ingenue. She has the look. Maybe that’s why I don’t like her face…
Penny: You know whose faces I do like? HBC and SBC.
Circe: Amazeballs. I wish they were a couple IRL. Although I guess she fits pretty well with Tim Burton, too.
Penny: Also, Marius’s face was nice to look at. AND Eddie-boy did quite well with carrying the whole love-struck tenor thing while not making me want to hurl heavy things at his head for being a love-struck tenor. He didn’t sound strained (except that one low note in “Empty Chairs”, for which he has already been forgiven).
Circe: What were your thoughts on the up-close shots of faces during solos? (Don’t know the technical term for this…)
Penny: I think it goes back to the whole privileging acting over the music thing. I wasn’t a fan-fan, but it didn’t bother me. I definitely preferred Eddie Redmayne in profile though. He looked a little constipated sometimes when he sang – it took away from his beauty. He also may have looked less constipated from further away. There’s a reason singing is a stage-craft.
Circe: Yea I feel like the close-ups might have been the best option given that your attention really should be focused on the singer’s emotions and you’re more or less going inside their minds when they sing their solos, but it feels kind of awkward to have the camera trained on someone’s face for so long in a movie… yet again why it’s better on stage. What can I say, as a retired stage acTOR myself, I am quite pahh-tial to the THEEatre. (side note: I wish I could figure out a better way to write this in the pretentious way I am pronouncing these words in my head)
Penny: Agreed. Wholeheartedly. EXCEPT for the group numbers which were 1. musically phenomenal and 2. fully realized in all their epicness on the big screen and Dolby Surround Sound.
Circe: Yes, especially the beginning scene with the chain gang and the ship! That was SO FREAKING COOL.
Penny: And “One Day More”.
Circe: And “Red and Black”.
Penny: Mmmmm. Enjolras. So angry.
Circe: So, to sum things up…
Movie Grade: A- (Definitely go see it, but there are flaws)
Best Performance: Anne Hathaway
Best Song: (Penny) It’s a tie between “Red and Black” and “One Day More” for me. (Circe) Ditto. Cried during both, so definitely tied.
Most Entertaining Song/Performance: “Masters of the House”
Most Beautiful Man: Aaron Tveit x infinity
Worst Performance: Russell Crowe
Most Disappointing Performance: Hugh Jackman
Most Surprising Performance:
Samantha Barks (JK, we knew she’d be great). Eddie Redmayne.
UPDATE: Slate agrees with us about the singing v. acting dilemma!