Located on a small expansion shelf about midway between the Third and Fourth Circles, Musical Hell is presided over by Diva, a minor demon charged with passing judgement on the worst musicals ever committed to film. (She still hasn't figured out if this is their punishment or hers.) Take a seat on the bench and have your earplugs ready, because court is now in session.

New videos posted on the first Monday of the month. Other viewpoints, news, and general ramblings posted when they crop up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(Over)Analyzing the Les Miserables Trailer

So with the premiere of the Les Miserables teaser trailer, my personal embargo on Les Mis footage comes to an end (confession time: I wasn't really doing all that good at it anyway).  If Universal Studios feels comfortable releasing it, then I feel comfortable going through the entire thing with a fine-tooth comb.

(What's that?  You haven't seen the trailer yet?  What happened, did you get lost hiking in the mountains or something?  Oh never mind, here it is:)

I do like the way Anne Hathaway sounds on this.  When it comes to musicals I'm not a huge stickler for technical accuracy, so long as there is enough command of pitch, tone, and phrasing to keep it from sounding completely awful (though as Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! proves, some movies have trouble fulfilling even that basic requirement).  What is more important to me is how well the singing fits the style of the music and the nature of the character.  Renee Zelweiger works as Roxie Hart because she sounds like a vaudeville wannabe with more ambition than talent; Emmy Rossum doesn't work as Christine Daae because she doesn't sound like a young opera prodigy.  Hathaway's raw, emotionally gutted rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" fits Fantine's wretchedness, despair, and humiliation, and that makes it very powerful and moving.

I've heard complaints that the trailer "doesn't tell enough of the story," but what of it?  To begin with, expecting a detailed recap of Les Miserables in ninety seconds of film is a bit much.  Secondly, I'm rather tired of trailers that show you every single important scene in the film.  Where's the fun in that?  I am thrilled with what's on display so far, confirming my belief that the knack Tom Hooper displayed for creating effective images in The King's Speech would serve this material very well.  I can't decide which moment in this trailer I like best.  Valjean falling to his knees before the altar?  The whores bursting out of the brothel like slutty bats out of Hell? Poor little Cosette lost in the forest?  It all looks so amazing.

Well, almost all of it.  I will say I'm not quite satisfied with the way Samantha Barks looks as Eponine: too neat and pretty.  This tends to happen a lot in the stage version as well, where Eponine just looks a little scruffy with an artfully smudged face rather than a desperately poor girl suffering under a lifetime of destitution and two of the worst parents in literature.  I suspect this has something to do with making her more appealing to all the angsty teen girls who inevitably identify with "On My Own."  (Yes, I was one of those girls at one point.  Wasn't every music theater geek girl of my generation?)  But if that's all I have to complain about, this movie should be in excellent shape.  Roll on December!

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