Misery Loves A Little Company

Well, not misery so much as Les Miserables. Les Mis loves company. To the tune (see what I did there? Tune?  It’s a musical and all) of 600 people squashed into a theater the day after Christmas.

It’s our tradition. The girl-child and I go and see a movie on Christmas eve and leave the boys to fend for themselves. This year, though, the only movie she actually wanted to see opened on Christmas day. We went, but barely. By the time we got there, the line for the movie was out the door. As I stood waiting for the guy to ring up my tickets, he commented “I hope it doesn’t sell out before I can get this done.” Me, too, pal.

I know most of the people in the theater had already seen at least one stage production and probably owned a soundtrack or two, judging by their ability to sing along. Not me. I was a first timer, my experience limited to a reading of an abridged translation in the 8th grade. Or a speed-reading. Or a quick glance before the paper was due. I remember something about a sewer.

Anyway, I didn’t have a lot of preconceived ideas like I did for The Hobbit, or even actually remember what the thing was about. I knew there would be a little singing here and there, and no overdubbing or flying monkeys (don’t ask!). That’s all a body needs to know before seeing a film, really.

I can’t totally decide how I rate this movie. It’s either a 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 stars.

The music was incredible. Mind, my knowledge of the soundtrack is limited to Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent, so I have little to compare it to, but I loved the music.

The singing was 75% really good, 15% spectacular, and 10% painful. Hugh Jackman’s first few songs made me want to crawl under my seat, but he did get better. Anne Hathaway was so good that I almost forgave her for being such a worm in Brokeback Mountain. Almost. And Amanda whats-her-face was stellar as Cosette.

The acting was superb. Every single actor committed to their performance in a way I’ve never quite experienced before. Maybe it had something to do with the powerful music.

So if I loved the music, the singing, and the acting, what’s left? Um, the cinematography. Dear heavens. I am praying that the film isn’t nominated for an academy award for cinematography because we do not want to encourage this kind of behavior.

I know the bouncy footage is supposed to make me feel like I’m there. It didn’t. It made me feel like someone had just handed the camera to their five year old nephew and told him that there was a Ninja Turtle around the corner. And some of the shots are retained in the movie because the actor nailed the song, but the cameraman didn’t. There were many shots that were totally out of focus, or focused on weird things. And not in an artsy kind of way. In one scene, the only parts of Marius’ face that were in focus were his right ear and his left cheek, and he was the only one in the shot. That was some cinematic magic right there. How they pulled that off, I will never know.

And what is with the tight shots? And I do mean tight. Close ups take on a whole new meaning here. Hugh Jackman’s head took up 2/3 of the movie screen. His Michael Landon/Pa Ingalls hairdo was a bit distracting at 20 feet tall.

A dramatic scene loses some of its impact when the actor has nasal leakage larger than the average preschooler hanging off their face. I didn’t weep over Fantine’s lost innocence because I was too concerned she was going to drop a snot-runner on my new purse. The people on the front row should have been issued umbrellas. How could I focus on Marius’ incredible voice when his Adam’s apple was the size of my dining room table?

The movie was haunting and beautiful in so many respects, but I don’t think I can watch it in a theater again. Given that a good 70% of the filming consisted of super-tight closeups, I think it will actually look better on my $10 yard sale television than it does on the big screen. It was off-putting enough to cost the movie a star in rating. I think. I can’t decide if the actors make up for the lousy camera work.

I would like to watch the movie a second time and a third, and a fourth (all on a smaller screen, of course), so I will likely buy it when it goes on sale, but I can’t see it in the theater. I can’t look up Russell Crowe’s nostrils again. I could see his brain.