Category Archives: Musical

Review: Les Misérables

The motion picture version of the epic Musical Les Miserables wears its heart on its sleeve. With the actors singing live to camera and the emphasis on every raw emotion the actors can produce, this film feels very much like you’re on stage with the cast during a live performance. It’s bold, honest, but sometimes a little too intense. Despite the raw power of its cast however, the film itself isn’t quite as powerful.

Les Miserables is a French historical novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862, and adapted as a musical in 1980. It’s the musical version that has been adapted to screen, and would be film-goers beware it is almost exclusively sung. The plot centres on Jean Valjean in 19th Century France. Hunted by the devoted policeman Javert after he breaks parole, he agrees to raise Cosette, the daughter of a factory worker Fantine. The decision, the result of his own inadequacies, is one that will change his life.

It’s a very heady yarn filled with much moral ambiguity and a lot of questions about the nature of justice, religion, and romance. However no one is really questioning the source material, Les Miserables is a timeless story and a very well celebrated musical. The only real question is: Does this work on film?

For the most part, it does, and does so spectacularly. This is largely assisted by an extraordinary cast headlined by Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russel Crowe. If Anne’s rendition of I Dreamed a Dream doesn’t leave you in tears then frankly you have no heart. For that matter, if the more emotional scenes especially the films final moments don’t at least touch you then there is something wrong. Hathaway and Jackman thoroughly deserve any awards coming there way, and Russel doesn’t deserve the criticism he’s received.

Director Tom Hooper deserves the credit for bringing out the best in the cast and bringing the rawness that is definitely this films strongest point. His Direction otherwise however leaves  a lot to be desired. The film is void of a sense of location and jumps between broad sweeping camera shots to intensely long close-ups that leave all but the actors face out of focus for great lengths of time. Hooper catches the drama expertly, but he lacks balance so that by the end of the 157 minute run time you are quite worn out.

Les Miserables is an intense experience, one faithful to its Source and full of exceptional performances. What it lacks is more than adequately made up for and only those without a taste for musicals will find it difficult to watch. It is quite long, and the Director has made you feel that running time. Come prepared to cry if you are that way inclined, well even if you aren’t you probably will.


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Filed under Drama, Film Reviews, Musical

Review: Chicago

If one goes to ‘Chicago’ expecting the ‘ol razzle dazzle, then you will get it – nothing more and nothing less. Let that be a warning too, if you are really expecting anything more than a jolly good piece of entertainment, you will simply be left wanting.

‘Chicago’ does the deed as a musical adaptation, it won’t ever go down as one of the greats but it can certainly hold an audience. The trouble is that the film’s format leaves a great deal to be desired and the casting too may not of been, lets say based exactly on talent.

It is pretty clear from the start that this film is attempting a kind of surreal Jazz feast set in the mind of the lead character Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) who imagines reality as one giant performance. Sounds fun right? Well it can be! Some scenes from the cell block tango to We Both Reached for the Gun are quite magnificent and reason enough to justify the price of admission, but the continual excitement factor seems a little underdone.

The first half hour of the film is really underwhelming. Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly gives an average performance alongside Zellweger, one imagines they were cast as `big names’ rather than for pure talent. These two do feature in the films best moments, but they are constantly upstaged by the film’s other roles. Richard Gere as Billy Flynn is clearly not a great singer, but he pulls his job off to perfection in comparison to the lead women. John C. Reilly as Amos Hart steals his own lime light in patches, and at some points you even wish he could have more of it, he gives his side of the story far more emotion than any other. Besides these individual standouts, I found that most of the smaller roles felt far more in place than the stories leads.

Still as a rendition of a musical of days gone by it settles into a very 50s rhythmic style of filmmaking. After the initial hurdle and pretty much about the same time as Cell Block Tango, the film lightens up and kicks into full gear. From here on in most of the films flaws can be forgiven due to the entertainment value. Still, for some, the ending leaves more than a few things to be desired. Perhaps a little too much razzle-dazzle, and not enough of the flare that you get from the stage version.

As a film, ‘Chicago’ is not better than the stage version and it does leave the audience wanting more. Not because they didn’t want it to end, but because it failed to deliver. It is entertaining however and will satisfy the most.

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Film Reviews, Musical