When I first fell in love with Phantom of the Opera, I watched it like 30 times, bought the original copy, Joy had it downloaded on her iPod, and I even read the original book to which Andrew Lloyd Webber based the musical on.
Last night when we watched the 2012 film adaptation of Victor Hugo‘s 1862 Novel, I was stunned by Anne Hathaway‘s performance, irritated by Russel Crowe‘s singing, shocked that Hugh Jackman could belt those songs, and moved by the entire movie’s misery, patriotism, love, and hope.
Okay, I think that sentence was much too crowded than I originally planned it.
Let’s break it down further.
The movie starts after the end of the Battle of Waterloo, after the defeat of Napoleon to the British as prisoners pull a ship back to the shipyard. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is paroled after 19 years of incarceration because he stole a piece of bread for his sister and her son who were going hungry. His arch nemesis Javert (Russel Crowe) hands him his paper, forever marking it as an ex-convict.
Valjean is not accepted anywhere because when he showed his papers, people didn’t want to have anything to do with him. His persona turns 180-degrees when the benevolent Bishop Myriel of Digne (Colm Wilkinson who also played Jean Valjean in the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary in 2010) pretends to have really given Valjean the silverware the latter stole from the church.
Valjean, in his attempt to escape his dark past and breaking his parole terms, then takes on the role of Monsieur Madeleine, mayor of a small town and factory owner, where Fantine (Anne Hathaway) worked.
Speaking of Fantine, who was forced to sell her hair and teeth (in the novel she sold her 2 front teeth but in the movie, it seems like they took her molars instead as evidenced when she sang I Dreamed a Dream), and finally give in to prostitution so that her daughter Cosette, who she thought was dying, can get the food and medicine needed to survive. She was kicked out by Monsieur Madeleine’s foreman, after finding out that she bore a child out of wedlock.
Anne Hathaway’s moment required a lot of emotional, physical and spiritual preparation. It was one of the most gripping performances in the movie that ran for almost 3 hours. I could hardly believe the beautiful and elegant actress would actually look like a waif in the movie.
The kids in the movie, though the roles are short, are also very touching. Gavroche, who appeared at the latter part of the movie, as part of the Friends of the ABC, and the young Cosette, whose face is used as the movie’s banner, both delivered their roles superbly and yet with children’s voice that makes the movie more human, and more cruel at the same time.
The love triangle of Marius (Eddie Redmayne) – whose singing was also outstanding, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Eponine (Samantha Barks) was short, but highlighted the latter part of the movie, as we move closer to the June 1832 Rebellion, referred to in the movie as the Barricade.
The love triangle in the movie had Marius outshining even Eponine’s rendition of the famous On My Own song. Samantha Barks thankfully reprises the role (she played the same in the 25th Anniversary) and won over Taylor Swift (no offense to Taylor Swift fans but it would have been a lot different having her as Eponine).
Another outstanding actor in the movie is Aaron Tveit who played the leader of the Friends of ABC, Enjolras. His singing was so good that for a moment I almost forgot that the movie actually centered on Valjean. Tveit auditioned for the Finn role in Glee but obviously didn’t get it. He was also a part of the Premium Rush movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and as Trip van der Bilt in the now defunct Gossip Girl.
Oh and did I already mention Russel Crowe? For the most part, most bloggers and critiques are right in saying that he played the role badly. His singing was raw, sometimes off-key and didn’t fare as much as Jackman’s. But I tried to circle around it that, number 1, as Crowe himself tweeted, it was how the director wanted it, period. And number 2, it drove the audience to love Valjean more, ex-convict though he may be, and admire him more than we would the morally upright Inspector. In my opinion though, Gerard Butler would have played the Javert role better. Not that he’s the best singer, but because he was able to give meaning to his role as the phantom.
I watched the 1998 Film (not musical) version when I was young, in HBO. The only thing I remember about it is Inspector Javert played by Geoffrey Rush dying along the river. I didn’t remember that it was Liam Neeson who played the protagonist Valjean in it. So, if it stuck to me after so many years, I’m sure that the character had more meaning than portrayed in the 2012 version.
On the whole, towards the end, in my futile efforts to not shed a tear, I found Joy smirking at my side, as I wiped my face clean. The movie spoke with the audience, especially in the way the camera was handled. They’re shot pretty much in close up, where one would see the veins, teeth, even drops of sweat, and the desperation in the actors’ eyes. And wow, did they sing the songs live! Holy cow!
If you have watched the 10th and 25th anniversary presentation of Les Mi, I’m almost sure you’d most likely be disappointed. If you have read the actual novel (which I plan on doing as I already saved the pdf version on my phone), you would notice that some parts have been altered for the cinema audience. If this is the first time you’re watching Les Mi, you will go home struck with awe at the actors we know to just act, and not sing.
Yes, Adam Lambert may have been right when he said that the actors were pretending to be singers. But isn’t that what playing a role is supposed to be? To act the part, and that means, to pretend?
I have all praises for the crew altogether. I shall watch it again, and again, and again.
My favorite scenes?
Valjean’s last moment with Marius and Cosette – who among us have not lost a loved one, ever? I’m sure everyone can relate.
Gavroche’s parts – the kid was awesome. He deserves to have other movies, too.
Fantine’s I dreamed a dream – Anne Hathaway deserves every bit of the Best Supporting Actress award. The interview done with Ricky Lo (which was removed by Philippine Star following negative reactions by netizens) did not give her justice. We’ve all had our shares of struggles, whatever that may be, not necessarily selling hair, tooth and you know.
Eponine’s On my own – alright, so a Filipino can’t help but compare this to Lea Salonga’s version in the 10th Anniversary. But the girl gave it substance, too. And who among us has never experienced unrequited love, ever? Hmm..
Enjolras and the Barricade – this reminded me of my sister Beng and her comrades. Youthful, hopeful, idealistic, fierce and principled. If Enjolras and Beng were born at the same era in the same place, I’m sure they would have fought side by side.
Les Miserables 2012 was a brave take on the classic novel. Kudos to its cast and crew for educating the young ones, and for allowing the once-young to rekindle the glorious play that was.
For a list of songs in the movie and their lyrics, visit:
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite scene in the movie below: