BWW Blog: Natalie Toro - I Hear You Wanna Know What I Thought Of Les Miserables?
So many people have been emailing me and asking me what I thought of the movie? I have not answered most because I wanted to sit with my "feelings" and make sure that what I thought came from the "right" place. But is there ever a right place when you give an opinion of a show or of some else's work? I mean who the hell am I? Is it a coincidence that I am blogging this month? Do I sit here and give my blah opinion written in black and white forever or do I slash its throat at the helm and let it all hang out? I have certainly gotten my share of evil black and white reviews, some so rotten that it felt like the critic had a personal vendetta against me. Did I deserve it? Well, it's a matter of opinion.
Like many of us, we wondered if they would ever make a movie. I used to hear friends all the time guessing at who would be their favorite cast of stars. When they produced the 25th Anniversary Concert, I went to see it at the movie theater when they had a one -time deal with theaters across the country showing the concert, only at a certain time just for one day. It blew me away. I went with my sister who never saw the show and didn't even know what it was about. We left the theater in a heap of emotional wreck-ness. I ask you why they had to hire Nick Jonas as Marius? Every time, he opened his mouth, he looked constipated. It was awful. But hey, someone might have liked him. How about the teenage screaming group of girls squealing very high-pitched sounds and who had their phones out to snap a picture of him every time he was on the screen? But now a motion picture... It's like waiting to exhale.
The moment it was announced that the release would be on Christmas Day, my very good friend, David, called me right away. His birthday is on December 28th. He said the only thing he wanted for his birthday was for me to see the film with him on that day. Who could resist that request? He lives in Boston and so we worked it out. Then came the jacket conversation. You see, because he was so crazy for the show, I ordered a Les Miz show jacket for him way back when with his name embroidered on the front. He didn't like it when complete strangers would call out his name cause they saw it on the jacket, so he had the stitching released and re-stitched it "General Lamarque". Freaking genius!
For you Les Mizzers, you know there is NO actual character in the show played by an actor with that name. He is just mentioned a couple of times. Anyway, he wore it with pride and thus made me dust the cobwebs off of my jacket. On December 28th, we showed up at the beautiful Ziegfeld Theater in NYC, the only place to see a movie musical, such old charm and history, red velvet seats and a sound system that make your intestines rumble to the beat of the bass.
The anticipation was killing me. I'm about to experience how life imitates art with the actors singing live and raw. I knew it wasn't going to be Broadway caliber singing. It was like real people. What does raw mean? Pretend you were walking down the street and all your thoughts are jumbled in your brain, you hear the orchestra start to play, you take a deep breath and you start singing your song. I mean, wouldn't that be awesome if real life were that way? Imagine the whole world singing? I know what you're thinking right now, your voice sucks and you wouldn't be found dead singing out on the streets. So you suck, but I still think you would be cool!
Popcorn, check. Chocolate, check. Soft drink, check. Box of tissues, check. Places everyone...lights off and downbeat! Held my breath. OMG!
I was waiting to feel something, to fall off my chair, to have my boogers running down my chin like when I saw the stage production.
The first scene in the shipyard was amazing. I felt like I was in the water with Jackman and all those filthy, smelly inmates. I felt Valjean's pain, felt the agony and the loneliness. Crowe even had me...for the moment and when I say moment, the tiniest flicker of a millisecond. But something else was terribly wrong. Where were those lush orchestrations from the original score? How come my intestines weren't jumping to the bass? Where the hell was the sound??? I looked around the theater at all the speakers they had on the sidewalls. Did someone forget to turn them on? Cause they were off. Are you serious?? All the sound was coming from the front. I felt cheated and it took me out of the movie. For those that know me, I am a Sound Diva. The sound can make or break a show for me. But the orchestrations were thin. I wonder since it was raw and sung live, they had to cut down some of the instruments. I did not like that!
Tried so hard to get back into the film.
When Jackman sang about breaking his parole in the church, really brought me to a place that I was so familiar with. Jackman was brilliant, his layers, his depth, his turmoil. I felt like he was living his question. It was an "Ah" moment. Yes, I'm ready to be taken. Take me there! But once I was in that ecstasy state, I was quickly brought down like a bad hangover from a night of partying once the story got on its way. Don't get me wrong, Hathaway kicked some serious booty. I was very proud of her performance. She took me on her journey with those huge eyes and crestfallen dejected soul as if I was standing right next to her. In fact, I was standing right next to everyone who sang a solo. I mean, Jesus! The Director didn't leave any room for imagination. Everyone who sang a solo had the camera so close to his or her face, all you saw were nose hairs. And literal direction does not impress me. When a chair was mentioned in a song, you saw a chair, then a window was mentioned, oh, there's the window and so on and so on. During "Bring Him Home", I felt Valjean was more like a tiger approaching and trying to decide what to do with his prey as Marius lie sleeping. Should I kill it? Should I keep it? Again, it took me out of one of the most beautiful moments in the show. I was impressed though with how he sang that song, even though he was pacing back and forth.
Now this brings me to the love trio, Marius, Eponine and Cosette. Who cares? Okay people, You know me! I have such a compassionate, mush heart and I am so sensitive. I cry at commercials for Pete's sake. But it was like watching three people that didn't even know each other. I didn't feel the excitement in my loins for them. They were hormone-less! And what was up with Marius' hair? Did they have gel at that time? It looked like he (Redmayne) had the time to do his "do" each morning. There was no friendship between them. It all happened so fast. So when Eponine (Barks) sang the heart wrenching, "On My Own", I didn't care as much. She was so good though. She had the look, the voice, and the heart. But she was cheated from killing her audience. And when she died, it was like, "Oh well". I didn't care for the Director's choice to have her put the barrel of the gun to her own chest. I didn't like the changes that she wasn't the one to bring the letter to Valjean for Cosette from Marius. These sacrifices are what make her unique, vulnerable, yet hopeful for her and at the same time, devastating to your heart. I should have been on the floor clenching my heart ready to call 911 by this point in the movie. Frustrating.
Oh Crowe...why hath thou forsaken such a great piece of art? And what the hell where you doing up there? Holy Moly, Mother of God! A Mr. Johnny one note with that one note a disaster waiting to happen. I was shocked and disgusted. You are supposed to fear him and be so afraid when he got close to Valjean. He was a wet fish, a deer in headlights. So out of his element. No match for Jackman and no match for a movie musical phenomenon as this. Stay singing in the shower!
As far as everyone else: Sacha was great as expected. Helena needs to expand her horizons a bit. She just played Mrs. Lovett from Sweeny Todd all over again. It was a nice honor to see Colm Wilkinson in the mix. And little Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) was a little cream puff that I wanted to eat. Did I forget anyone?
Now, that the throat is slit...my review doesn't mean that much. It's just the way I feel about something that I have been waiting for, for such a long time. This show has been a part of my life and will continue to be living in all of my cells. I sing, 'On My Own" in concert all the time. What can I say?
I will say that I will give the film a second chance. Everything deserves a second chance, maybe a different theater, one with great sound. Maybe, I will go "on my own", keep a bigger open eye. Hugh Jackman is a Tour De Force. Thank you for your performance. Mr. Song and Dance man one day and the next, a testosterone filled Wolverine. Who does that? I will say that I was crying by the end. His last scene made it all worth it.
The beauty of the film was that you did feel like you were there. The cinematography was gorgeous. The ensemble worked together beautifully. Boy, you really felt who were the musical theater people in those ensemble scenes. Did you not? But there is no comparison to the theatrical production. The lush score, the set and the well developed emotional characters. It's a production that will have you holding your breath till the curtain comes down, the real curtain. I should know. I played it for 3 and a half years and maybe I'm impartial. What are your thoughts, your opinions? Give it to me. I can take it! This is your moment to say what you have to say. I did! xoxo