Classical Sass

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Les Mis

It’s my favorite musical.  I keep forgetting that.  I got the original London cast soundtrack (1985) about two years after it came out, maniacally listened and sang along to it for the next ten years, and then got wrapped up in trying to get through college without butchering every concerto I attempted.  So, even though I still have all the songs memorized, every nuance of every phrase of the ’85 version imprinted on my brain, and could not possibly have been remotely surprised by any of the plot points, I still suffered perpetual chills throughout the three hour film.  Literally perpetual; by the end of the first half, I was annoyed with my enthusiasm and spent a few moments wanting to be one of those people that hates all musicals.  Then someone else started singing, and I re-dissolved into a puddle of tingly bubbly.

So.  Anne Hathaway.  There are so many things that I want to say about this film, but it’s difficult to focus on any of them because…Anne Hathaway.  And I am fairly certain her name is the best and clearest statement of that performance that I could ever muster.  You need to see it to understand.  Bear in mind that I didn’t even know girl could sing.  Prior to this movie, I was fine with her acting abilities – I mean, I didn’t really know her stuff all that well and hadn’t formed any concrete opinions one way or the other.

This movie.  Anne Hathaway.

If Serkis stole LOTR, Anne Hathaway stole acting.  Or, at the absolute, ultimate, least; Fantine.  And I only make that allowance because I haven’t really seen her in much else that highlights her fucktastic, speech-inhibiting, awesome the way Les Mis did.

I have had brief and fairly casual conversations on the various singing performances in this version.  Most of them included hefty criticisms of Crowe and a few lodged at Seyfried.  I think the criticisms are fair, but what I realized throughout the conversations was that I feel the same way about singing as I do about violin: sound first.  If you don’t have a good sound, a good voice, a beautiful tone, then I will cringe at some point.  It’s inevitable.  So, while Seyfried’s voice might actually be that high, it didn’t sound good to me because her tone was thin and her vibrato was several notches faster than everyone else’s, which eventually made me tense while listening to it.  Crowe might have been Uncle Bernie on Christmas after he’s had a few, but his scooping and timbre bothered me less than Jackman’s wide, slow vibrato, and occasional sharpness.

Let’s be clear: Jackman has an AMAZING voice.  I’m not sure why his vibrato was so wide or slow; I re-listened to Wilkinson’s version to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind, and while some things tended a little sharp, and some notes held a wider vibrato, there was no comparison (in my mind) to the extremes that Jackman takes it.  It was wide and slow enough that I felt it interfered with the harmonies.  That can’t be good.  It probably also didn’t help that I had hyped him up to nearly halo-rendering perfection based on previous Broadway examples of his that I’d heard previous to this one.  What gets me is that no one else seems to be as disgruntled with his warbling as I was; it really ruined the pervasive crush I was supposed to develop during the course of the show.  Now all I have is Wolverine.  Woe.

AH!  So this is an edit, done after I’d already published this to the blog.  I forgot to mention the re-orchestrated bits!  Bad musician.  I liked them, especially the string solos.  I guess I could’ve done without some of the brass additions, mostly because I thought they tended to overpower the voices rather than add to the overall texture.  But that might have been a balance thing and not an orchestration thing.

Aaand that’s all.  That is all the complaint I have about something that should have sent me into pages and pages of pointless rant, if only because it wasn’t the same 1985 London production I’d branded into my psyche two decades ago.  The acting was, at all times, brilliant.  The kids were freakishly talented, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen made me bounce in my chair with over-giggled delight, Marius and Eponine were great – enjoyed their singing and their acting, and felt they were exactly as they should be.  I guess, if I’m going to be a total asshole, I would have liked for Barks’ voice type to be a little heavier or darker, mostly to fit her character, but whatever, it was totally fine.

Back to Anne Hathaway.  She like, nails it and then gives this interview.  I…holy modesty…amazeballs not even knowing…just…

See it!  And then you’ll know all about her awesome, and will possibly be less judgmental of my gibbering away with no verbs or grammar when trying to describe it.