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Les Mis Thoughts: Round 2

1.14.2013

I saw the movie again!  Well, last week. And I was going to do a follow-up post right afterwards, but it got away from me.  Here it is, better late than never.





The second viewing allowed me to check on some things I wondered about in the first viewing, but was so swept up I couldn't concentrate on.

First, some slight changes to the score/lyrics that didn't bother me initially, but bothered me the more I thought about them.  In "The Bargain/The Thenardier Waltz of Treachery" there is supposed to be a line by the Thenardier's addressing the shadiness of an adult man showing up to buy a young girl.

One more thing, one small doubt
There are treacherous people about
No offense, please reflect
Your intentions may not be correct?

In the stage musical it makes sense, but in the film it would have made even MORE sense.  Valjean finds her in the woods, asks her if he can help her and where she lives, and then wants to buy her from her 'caretakers.'  I really wanted that line to be in there to assure the audience, "Yeah, this would be creepy to people who didn't know Valjean's morals."

The second offense and much more grievous, is in "A Little Fall of Rain."  Don't get me wrong, I totally sobbed and was moved by this scene.  HOWEVER.  When I got home and was thinking over the movie (the first time) I was like, "Hey, that was sad, but it was missing something.  It wasn't as sad as I remember it..."

How do I remember it?  I remember fantasizing about NSYNC's limo hitting me, and JC coming out to sing this duet with me while I died in his arms.  Seriously.  And the line that would be the most crushing blow?  When Eponine desperately belts,

I'll sleep in your embrace at last!

I mean, her other lyrics only hint at her being in love with him, whereas that line--that amazing unrequited-love line--really brings it home and twists the knife in your chest.  Or at least my chest.  So when I saw the movie a second time, I waited for it, hoping I merely missed it originally, but no.  The only possible explanation is that Tom Hooper was never a teenage girl.

And then, the WORST change of all, in my opinion.  It comes at the end in Valjean's death scene, where he gives Cosette the letter.  No, it's not the fact that Eponine wasn't there for the gorgeous harmonizing, though that is a bummer.  It was Valjean's lyric changes for "Finale/Epilogue":

On this page I write my last confession
read it well when I, at last, am sleeping
it's the story of one who turned from hating
a man who only learned to love
when you were in his keeping

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.  You do NOT get to keep Fantine in that scene (how could you not) and then totally cut her from your letter.  These are the original and much better lyrics:


On this page I write my last confession
read it well when I, at last, am sleeping
it's a story of those who always loved you
your mother gave her life for you
and gave you to my keeping

We KNOW you and Cosette are close, we've had half the movie to see it!  For the love of God.  Bad change, BAD.

Ok, enough nitpicking and harping.  Here are some moments that I loved the first time around but remember better to tell you after seeing the film again.

I know I said I loved Eddie Redmayne so you already know that, but can we talk about how he sings "You're Jean Valjean" in "Valjean's Confession"?  Valjean is hurriedly trying to confess all these secrets that have haunted him and controlled him for years, changing his identity and living in constant fear of their revelation, and as he anxiously asks, "Who am I?  Who am I?" Eddie looks at him with such kindness and compassion and softly sings "You're Jean Valjean."  He names him in love.  It's perfection.

Now, "I Dreamed a Dream" totally tore me up the first time, but before the second time someone told me that Anne Hathaway had practiced singing while crying because it's so difficult.  Daaaamn.  So when I listened to the song again, it cut me even more.  I mean, at 2:22 when she starts the "as they turn your dreams to shame" and then the build of notes (keys?) through "shame" is incredible.  And from there she sings with such intensity and anger and hysteria.  It's fucking incredible.  I never expected her voice to be that breathtaking.

Finally, at "The Final Battle" (snicker), I was sort of shaken awake at both viewings.  At the second viewing, I knew why: the Army Office who sings like 28 words total, is played by none other than Hadley Fraser.  I did not recognize him because of his mustache + hat.  Hadley played Grantaire in the 25th Anniversary concert (so you might know him from that) as well as Raoul from the 25th Anniversary concert of Phantom.  I, luckiest of people, got to see him play Javert when I was in London two years ago.  Here's his "Stars" (WARNING: listening to this video may make you pregnant):



I say I was "shaken awake" not because I was asleep before his lines, but because I had been lulled into the sweet, not offensive singing of the big-name actors.  I'd just heard Hugh's decent "Bring Me Home"* and Russell's strong, uh...karaoke version of "Stars."  Obviously Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit had lovely voices, but all-in-all I was just sort of settled in to a pleasant and well-acted vocal experience.  But then Hadley shows up and RUINS IT.  Which is why no one need worry that the stage version of this musical will be less moving after seeing the film.  When you've got people like Hadley singing the big parts, the lead roles, all your hair will stand up and your ears will melt and your soul will sore onto the stage.  THAT is a voice meant for Les Mis.  (Need a refresher of his lines?  Here you go. "You have no CHAAAAANCE") So for me, the stage version will always beat my socks off because of the singing, and the movie will for the acting.  Which is perfectly fine with me!

*My favorite "Bring Him Home" performances in order from "Love" to "CHANGED MY LIFE":

Ramin Karimloo



Alife Boe



And of course, the master, the original: Colm Wilkinson



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