It is not often that I leave a movie theatre angry. Well, in the case of subject matter, Schindler's List left me angry, but I was also kind of numb from having my heart ripped out of my chest.
Today I left the theatre angry. I went to see one of my all time favorite musicals brought to the big screen. Les Miserables. Yes, films have been made before about Les Miz but not musical films. I've been anticipating this day since I heard it was being done. Maybe my expectations were too high.
Critics have not been kind to the movie. I chalked that up to "theatre snobs." It turns out they were right. At least in my opinion. Many people will go see it and love it. And they should. If you've never seen the story before, you will be enthralled.
I've had the advantage, or disadvantage in this case to have seen the stage version many times. I've listened to the sound track many many times. It's my "go to" musical. It's about fighting the fight for equality, empowerment, redemption, and forgiveness. All of my favorite topics.
Now I knew not to expect much from the singers. Most had passable voices. Anne Hathaway stood out as excellent, as did, Eddie Redmayne, as Marius. I Dreamed a Dream and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables were my two favorites of the film. Also just two redeeming moments.
My problem was not the voices. I could accept that, although I did wish I was listening to the Broadway Cast Recording at some points, as I watch the scenes unfold. My problem was the cinematography and editing. Two things you don't really notice unless they're bad.
Tom Hooper, the director, is apparently a fan of close ups. The whole film is one close up after another. In fact, I'm not even sure the actors were in the room at the same time when they were filming some of the scenes. Close ups are good when the director wants the audience to catch a subtle moment, or tell them this is important. When you do a whole film of them, you never know what's important and what to pay attention too.
The second thing I hated was the jerky camera movements followed by rapid fire cuts. One close up to another. One jerky pan to another. It made me motion sick.
Les Miserables is a beautiful story set against the backdrop of an unsettled France. It's the weaving of the stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, and others. It needs a large stage, or some distance, to show the intertwining of the stories. Not more closeups.
There were times when I felt like the director was saying, "see, you couldn't do this on stage" as the camera would shakily follow an actor, or highlight a particular prop piece.
The straw that broke my back was during Eponine's On My Own, which she did wonderfully. She captured the heartbreak of the character. Samantha Barks could both act and sing. It was a lovely scene and song until the director decided to illustrate the words to the song in case we were too stupid to understand. There is a line in the song "in the rain, the pavement shines like silver." Don't you know the camera panned down to show the pavement shining like silver. "See told you," he seems to say. Then the line "all the lights are misty in the river." Pan to the street lamp in the fog. Then if those weren't enough, the line is "the streets are full of strangers." Eponine, who has been all alone in this whole segment is suddenly joined by one dark figure walking by and you guessed it, the camera panned to him.
I really wanted to love Les Miz, but I certainly did not. The actors were, for the most part, wonderful. I don't blame them. The singing wasn't bad. The sets, from what we could see of them, looked great. Although it could have all be shot in front of a green screen for all they interacted with the sets, or each other for that matter. I guess closeups can't capture that.
This could have been a much better film, had the director relaxed and let it flow. The audience knows what's important. You don't have to beat us over the heads with it. The people coming to see your film are probably not the typical audience for Honey Boo Boo. We understand grown up things.