"Have you asked of yourselves... what's the price you might pay?"
~Enjolras, Red and Black
Part Two! Part Two is here! I shall restrain myself and not gush like a screaming fangirl, I promise--
--oh, who am I kidding. I really will do my best to remain mature and level-headed, but I can't promise that there won't be a few squeals.
So my sister and I were calmly clapping and doing happy wiggle dances when "Stars" ended (no, no, not because it was over--we're not THAT rude, and besides it really was pretty good) and then the screen changed to show THE ELEPHANT and the whole Paris of 1832 thing and I literally levitated. Or bounced on my bed. Whatever. Because, you know, SQUEEEE, MY BABY IS STORMING PARIS WITH HIS BAND OF CUTE FOLLOWERS.
That was definitely a squeal.
Um, anyways. I was really apprehensive about Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche... my first impression was that he was too cutesy and not tough enough to play the toughest character in the musical. I was quite happily proven wrong... and Adam Searles has been bumped off his top spot as Favorite Gavroche. (TAC still rules though. Just saying.)
There was just too much adorableness bouncing around in that scene. The extra verses added to Look Down (loved those!) and the jumping onto Courfeyrac's back... can we talk about how cute the Gavroche/Courfeyrac relationship was? I'm only disappointed that there wasn't more of it... according to an interview someone did with Fra Fee, there were several other scenes featuring the two of them that got cut. Sigh.
Oh, and for more on Gavroche, check out this post I wrote for Eva's blog... it'll save me from repeating it all here.
And then a certain someone's face was flashing onto the screen and THIS was what I've been waiting for since... since birth. Er, since last January when I first found out that the movie was being made. Whatever. "Look Down" was awesome. So much passion, so much anger, so many people singing all at once. Even the concerts didn't have that many. The sheer magnitude of this film overwhelmed me many times, and this was one of those times.
Shall we take this thing in an orderly manner and deal with all the barricade boys, one by one? We shall. And, naturally, we will begin at the beginning.
I'm sorry, was that too many pictures? I'm just bowing to requests from the people who read this blog. If it were up to me the whole post would be photo-free. Just so you know.
Certain people who happen to be my siblings have pointed out that when I first found out Aaron Tveit (and not Ramin Karimloo) would be playing Enjolras in the movie, I was somewhat disgusted. "Oh, some Broadway pretty boy with a voice like Justin Bieber. He'll ruin the part and he probably can't hit the notes in One Day More."
Well, uh, I do not remember such words. Don't say that you remember them. I will do remembering.
Basically, Aaron Tveit was the best Enjolras I've ever seen. I know, I know. The Ramin fans are approaching with menacing expressions and muskets held high even as we speak. Let me clarify. I still think Ramin Karimloo was an absolutely fabulous Enjo. He will always hold a special place in my estimation as the one who made the character come alive for me. (Michael Maguire was great and all, but he just didn't cut it. Sorry.) And his voice is still the greatest as far as Enjolras is concerned. No dispute there.
But Aaron Tveit is the Enjolras of the book. The leader, the chief, the heart of the revolution, the one who could yell at his friends for mooning over girls and getting drunk instead of planning a riot, but in the next minute snap his fingers and have everyone's attention and loyalty to the end. (And I do mean the end. SNIFF.) The marble lover of liberty, the boy disowned by his wealthy parents because of his political opinions, the man whose greatest love was his country (which is referred to as Patria, and please tell me I'm not the only one who used to think that was a girl's name...), the charismatic law student who is repeatedly described as angelically handsome. (Cough. Cough.)
Also he's a really good singer.
"The processes of revolution have always been the same, and to lead men into them there have always been required, first, a cause or pretence to enlist adherents; second, an end, or something as a practical achievement. As a rule he fights well who has wrongs to redress; but vastly better fights he who, with wrongs as a spur, has also steadily before him a glorious result in prospect--a result in which he can discern balm for wounds, compensation for valour, remembrance and gratitude in the event of death."
~Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur
Logically, we shall proceed next to Courfeyrac. Played to perfection by Fra Fee, who has the most amusing name in the credits and the most adorable accent in the entire film, Courfeyrac is one of my favorite barricade boys. Or revolutionaries. Or students. Or les Amis. Or whatever you want to call them. He's just so much fun. Gregarious, bubbly, always ready to discuss politics or doeskin trousers (whichever topic comes up first), Courfeyrac is the glue that holds les Amis together. He's the one who welcomes Marius into the group, gives him a place to stay and shuts him up when his ranting about Napoleon begins entering dangerous waters. (Enjolras doesn't take kindly to opposition in debate.) Not one of the barricade boys gets the amount of attention he deserves in the film (I know, I know, time constraints) but Courf's personality shines through despite his limited screen time.
And as we all know, nothing beats that line.
On to Combeferre. "Enjolras was the chief, Courfeyrac was the center, Combeferre was the guide." Victor Hugo tells us that Combeferre completed Enjolras, that where Enjolras was severe, Combeferre was gentle. Gentle and yet resilient-- one gets the impression, at least in the movie, that Combeferre is tough as nails. Killian Donnelly (who, incidentally, has also played Enjolras and Courfeyrac) does a fabulous job of playing the student who took care of everyone else (even under cannon fire and while dodging bayonets) and spouted long harangues on everything under the sun, yet summing up the thing they were all striving for--"to be free"--in three simple words. Enjo's my favorite, as you probably already guessed, but Combeferre comes second. And he, too, has a great voice. But hey, almost all the barricade boys are seasoned West End veterans, well-versed (pun not intended...) in Les Mis long before they were cast in the movie.
I'll admit, I had my misgivings about George Blagden's ability to play Grantaire. Most of these stemmed from the fact that he looks nothing like Hadley Fraser, who played R in the 25th Anniversary Concert (and also happens to be one of my favorite musical theatre actors) and that he wasn't a Broadway or West End star. I was quite happy to be proven wrong-- his Grantaire is everything that book-Grantaire ought to be, with an excellent voice to boot. Am I sounding redundant? Well, who cares. The barricade boys should have their own band. Just saying. (There will be a ranting session in Part Three about how "Drink With Me" was cut down to practically nothing... be prepared.) Anyways, Grantaire is the cynic of the group who also happens to have the best sense of humor (which is why he wasn't booted out of the Cafe Musain ages ago). He basically worships the ground Enjolras walks on, because Enjolras is everything he isn't-- charismatic, focused, has a goal in life, doesn't get drunk before breakfast, etc. George Blagden did a wonderful job of communicating all this just with a few facial expressions and, like, ten and a half minutes of screen time. Bravo!
Joly is just adorable, okay? (So is Hugh Skinner... but that's not the point.) He's a medical student who's more knowledgeable in How to Be a Patient than How to Be a Doctor-- that is, he's les Amis' resident hypochondriac, but he's also hilarious. And a proud member of the Make Fun of Marius Club. (We're getting to Marius. Be patient.) In the book, he whiles away the time before the final attack calmly inspecting his tongue in the mirror. Looking for strep throat, maybe? I don't know. But it's funny. In a morbidly tragic kind of way.
Jean Prouvaire (sometimes known as Jehan to the other Amis) is a real sweetheart. Hugo tells us that he liked to go for long walks and write poetry, that he was in love, that he wanted freedom for the people just as much as anyone else but he went about it gently. Alistair Brammer played Prouvaire in the 25th Anniversary Concert as well, and he did beautifully in both parts. I liked how he portrayed Jehan as quiet and affectionate without being a wimp... too often poor Jehan gets labeled "prissy" or "weak" by the fandom, and I think that's a crying shame.
It's also interesting to note that Jehan and Combeferre wear the exact same outfit in "Do You Hear the People Sing?"-- was that intentional?
We are told that Bossuet was a cheery fellow who was unlucky, but unfortunately Stuart Neal as Bossuet (or Lesgles, his actual name) has so few appearances that we don't really get to see that side of his character. We see the cheery bit, that is, because he's literally ALWAYS smiling except when he's getting killed (and warning the others about more soldiers), but we don't really see the unlucky part. I do, however, wish to point out that the Bossuet of the book is the oldest of the group when they are first introduced (twenty-five, how frightfully Methusalehsque!) and has already lost most of his hair... whereas Stuart Neal looks about fifteen and has more hair than Aaron Tveit (and that's sayin' a lot).
The pathetic shortage of pictures of Bahorel from the movie have forced me to resort to using this one, from The Young Revolutionaries DVD extra. (Go watch it. Well worth your six minutes.) Bahorel's pretty young and he gets excited easily and he likes to smash things up. And he dies in Enjolras' lap. Which is sad. We'll get to that. Umm.... that's about it. We're getting into Obscure Character Territory here.
Last one, I promise. This poor barricade boy doesn't even have a name, but he's played by Jamie Muscato, a West End actor who portrayed Joly in... (everyone together) ....the 25th Anniversary concert! I've named him Pierre, since the screenwriters didn't see fit to give him a real name, and I get excited and point like a two-year-old when his face flashes blurrily on the screen. Why? I'm not really sure. I just remembered him as the only one of les Amis other than Enjo and Grantaire who stood out to me on my first couple viewings of the 25th concert (probably his distinctive nose and hair had something to do with it) and when I discovered he was in the movie, it was like seeing an old friend. Or at least a familiar face. Whatever.
On to... everyone's favorite loser.
Oh, now come on. Put the bottles down. Marius IS kind of a loser. You have to grant me that. But he's a lovable loser. And it's absolutely impossible to hate him, because whether we admit it or not, we all have a little bit of Marius in us. Failure to see things staring us in the face, making the wrong remark at the wrong time, getting overdramatic when we don't get our way... yeah, don't pretend you don't see a trend. Marius is relatable whether we want him to be or not.
I feel like a broken record here, but Eddie Redmayne was another of the "I-am-totally-not-sure-about-this-actor's-ability-to-play-that-character" people. I believe my initial reaction upon seeing a picture of him for the first time was something along the lines of "ewww."
I need to work on my people skills, I think.
At any rate, I was proven wrong... AGAIN... and Eddie Redmayne was a great Marius. Still not Michael Ball. But then, who is? (Don't say Michael Ball. You knew what I meant.) His voice is not quite up to my impossibly high standards where Marii are concerned, but he did a pretty good job with most of the songs and his "Empty Chairs" was phenomenal. I can't help being amused by the way his head shakes every time he attempts to hold a note... but hey, that's about a billion levels above Nick Jonas' Marius, who didn't even know what a note was, let alone how to hold it.
Um, moving on.
However much I may admire Michael Ball's incredible vocal abilities and count his performance as my favorite, it cannot be denied that Eddie Redmayne's Marius is much closer to brick-Marius than any other portrayal I've seen. Michael Ball plays musical-Marius, which is great, but musical-Marius is head over heels for Cosette, incredibly loyal to his friends, completely ignorant of Eponine's feelings for him and that's pretty much it. Brick-Marius is a staunch Bonapartist (something not covered in the stage musical OR the movie, sigh...), a bit of a rebel (at least where his grandfather is concerned), head over heels for Cosette, incredibly loyal to his friends and completely ignorant of Eponine's feelings for him. In my not at all humble opinion (seriously, if my opinion was humble I wouldn't be posting it on my blog for all the world to see), Eddie Redmayne blended brick-Marius and musical-Marius beautifully. He had the political fervor Marius is supposed to have (even if it was republican... but hey, better than nothing), his interaction with Cosette was UNBELIEVABLY cute (did anyone else just completely melt every time they looked at each other), his rapport with Eponine was just right and the way he got along with les Amis was hilarious to behold. And he really did sing pretty well.
I definitely approve. And I hereby apologize for all the bad things I ever said about Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Because I hereby take them all back. *hunts for receipt*
It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least in my wee Les-Mis-loving circle) that Samantha Barks is the only person currently living on the planet who could have played Eponine so perfectly in the movie. (Lea Salonga has, sadly, aged out of the part.) She has a voice that could knock your socks off if you happen to be wearing socks (I'm typing this post while barefoot, so that's not an option for me), the kind of facial expressions that can convey an entire monologue with one eyebrow lift (think of Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy if you don't know what I mean), she's completely gorgeous even when she's a) a mud-covered street rat or b) dressed as a boy, and did I mention she's an amazing singer, possibly the best in the movie? Yeah, that too.
One thing that did bug me in her interaction with Marius, though, was the way the lyrics were so messed up. (Totally not Eponine's fault, though. Blame the screenwriter.) I don't think I would have minded so much if the rewritten song had sounded a little better--after all, it did explain to the viewers about Marius' grandpa and all that--but the silly thing doesn't even rhyme. (Don't say "yeah it does.")
"Hey there, monsieur, what's new with you? Plotting to overthrow the state?
You still pretending to be poor? Come on, I know your grandpa's rich..."
Guys, that's even worse than Freddy Eynsford-Hill's attempts at poetry. At least "bother me" and "rather be" almost rhyme, if you're British and don't discriminate between M and B. And what was up with cutting out Eponine's first few lines about knowing a lot of things? It didn't make any sense, later on, when she said, "You see I told you so, there's lots of things I know..." Sorry, honey, but you DIDN'T tell him so. And so the later line didn't make SENSE. I ranted as much to Anne-girl when it was all over, but all she would do was put on her best Josh voice and say, "But then it would have been like a six hour movie! THINK ABOUT IT!" and my argument became invalid because you can't argue with Blimey Cow.
Where was I.
Oh, yes, Eponine. Basically, my only complaint about her was that I felt like Samantha Barks didn't get enough screen time-- I mean, her Eponine was flawless because, y'know, SHE is flawless, but I wanted to see more of her.
I have always been something of a skeptic where Marius and Cosette are concerned, at least in the musical. I elaborated on my opinions regarding love at first sigh here, and I don't retract any of my statements, but...
(yes, I'm well aware that there are an awful lot of buts in this post, and an awful lot of crow-eating on my part)
... Marius and Cosette in the movie were too sweet for words. And it really has to be attributed to splendiferous acting from Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried. From the moment their eyes met across the crowded street, I knew they were destined to be together. (Well, obviously... I HAVE read the book AND seen both concerts AND seen the stage play, so if I didn't know by now that Marius and Cosette end up together, I must be pretty dense. Um, hope I didn't just spoil anything for you. Spoilers-- they get married.)
Amanda Seyfried was a lovely, lovely Cosette. I know the brick says Cosette is supposed to be a brunette, but I always pictured her as a blonde, and now it's pretty much impossible for me to picture her as anyone but Amanda Seyfried. She looks like a living doll, and isn't that what Cosette is supposed to be? Kind of symbolic with the doll Valjean bought for her when she was little... first she had the doll, then she grew up and became the doll. Because he spoiled her with clothes and whatnot, y'know.
Anyways. This Cosette was not bratty or spoiled as some Cosettes seem to be, however-- though she wanted to know more about the past and got upset when Valjean refused to tell her, she didn't get angry the way Katie Hall does in the 25th concert (an element that always annoyed me. Girl, you have no idea how much this man gave up for you!!). Nor does her wealth and privilege seem to have made any kind of Veruca-Salt-ish character out of her... the first time we see her as an adult, she's distributing money to the poor. I love that that's where Marius gets his first glimpse of her-- doing good for the people, just as he and his friends are trying to do in their own way.
But then the Thenardiers have to come along and ruin it all.
Not that I didn't enjoy the ruining, because it was hilarious.
Was I the only one who got chills when Javert picked up Gavroche? Then when Random Other Police Officer (whom I'm convinced was just thrown in there, along with the dudes at Fantine's arrest, just to prove that Javert is NOT the only cop in Paris, despite evidence to the contrary) was holding onto him while Javert was doing his I'm In Charge Here thing, my sister and I were vociferating our indignation quite... verbosely. LET THE CHILD GO, PUT HIM DOWN, HE'S NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS, IF YOU WANT TO ARREST SOMEONE, TAKE MONTPARNASSE AND HIS NICK JONAS POUT.
Ooooh, it would have been cool if Nick Jonas had played Montparnasse. I would have been way too amused. Even more so if they had left in the little bit at the end of "Look Down" where Gavroche is introducing Eponine and she elbows Parnasse in the stomach. That would have been entertaining.
Also, Russell Crowe's singing amused me (agaaaaain) in this one. "Let the old man keep on running, I will run him off his feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.... [pauses and looks around in embarrassment, remembering that he is a cop and not a pop star] everyoneaboutyourbusiness, clearthisgarbageoffthestreet!"
"Red and Black" was everything I wanted it to be, as long as I ignored the fact that a bunch of lyrics were cut off at the beginning. (Ahem. This is becoming rather a mantra.) The Marius-teasing was perfect (a combination of lightening the mood at what was probably a boring political meeting and just plain goofing off), Marius' reaction was exactly as it ought to be (a blend of confused, embarrassed and not-really-caring-because-did-you-guys-SEE-her???) and the singing was fabulous... but you knew that. It's the barricade boys. (Side note: Hadley Fraser's "ooh and ahh" used to be my favorite, but I'm becoming rather partial to George Blagden's after repeated listenings.)
This song, I think, is when we see Enjolras' full personality in its best light. We see him getting frustrated with both Marius and Grantaire, attempting to drag Marius back into the Real World (though the "who cares about your lonely soul!" is more of a "dude, wake up," than an expression of callousness, which I appreciated) and taking instant action when the news of Lamarque's death arrives. Speaking of which... is it just me or are those tears? Yeah, those are tears. I'd never thought about it before... but the students would have been sad over Lamarque's death. "From the candles of grief we will kindle our flame..."
And then, of course, Marius ducks out with Eponine to go see Cosette, and Enjolras is left staring over the bannister at... someone. Now, I'm not ashamed to tell you that I'm an Enjolras/Eponine shipper. IF they had both survived the barricades and IF the story had ended very differently, I would have loved to see them get married. She desperately needed someone to love her, and he desperately needed something (or someone) to believe in after the revolution failed. Yes, you can argue that the wistful look on Enjo's face is more of a "drat, Marius is deserting us again" than a "sheesh, who IS that gorgeous woman?" but I would much rather be romantical than accurate. In this case, anyway.
Come on, now... that face isn't the kind of face you make just because your best guy friend decided not to stay for the rest of the meeting. And look at Combeferre, will you? That's shock right there. Shock that Enjolras is noticing a girl. I will go down with this ship.
"In My Life" was one of the best I'd ever seen. I LOVED the little bit where Marius is swinging Eponine around and running down the street singing about his love. (Ha... if you've read the Vogue interview, that should be humorous.) I really, really liked the Cosette and Valjean interaction during that song... it made so much more sense for Cosette to be asking her father about his past instead of her own. She was eight when she left the Thenardiers... surely she would remember at least a little bit about her childhood. And I liked the way the candlesticks kept popping up in Valjean's rooms throughout the movie-- a lovely little touch showing how the Bishop's influence is following him through his life.
Amanda Seyfried's voice left something to be desired in both this song and "A Heart Full of Love"-- she really couldn't quite hit those high notes-- yet I'm okay with that. I saw an interview in which Samantha Barks was describing her costar's voice as almost birdlike, very tremulous and flute-y, which fits in perfectly with the brick's running comparison of Cosette to a lark. On stage I like a Cosette with a really strong soprano, but in the movie I'm willing to overlook technicalities. (Such condescension!)
On my most recent watching of the film, I burst into tears during "A Heart Full of Love." Odd, that-- it's a sweet song and I have a romantical turn of mind, but it's not the kind of song that usually makes listeners weep. And I wasn't even crying because Eponine was (literally) left out in the cold, though my sadness did stem from her presence. Mostly I was crying because all I could think of was, "gahhh, she loves Marius and he doesn't love her back and she's going to die."
Silly, isn't it? I knew Eponine was going to die. (Now you do too, if you didn't already.) I'm well-versed in this story. Why on earth should I suddenly start operating the waterworks just because I remembered what was going to happen in Act Two?
I think perhaps that, too, is a testimony to how great this film is. Here's a story I know like the back of my hand, a character who may very well be my favorite in the whole shebang (I still can't deciiiiiiide, though), a song I've heard literally hundreds of times. Yet seeing it in a new interpretation brought tears to my eyes (and face... and pillowcase...). This story still has the power to move me in ways I hadn't thought possible, even after many, many viewings. That's pretty incredible.
Okay, sappiness over. Back to our normal programming.
"Attack on the Rue Plumet" felt a bit rushed, probably because they cut the first couple verses. Sigh. YET AGAIN. But it was still handled well on Samantha Barks' part, anyway. Though nothing can top Lea Salonga's scream in the TAC. That thing ought to be patented. Just like Colm Wilkinson's eyebrows.
And the cutting of some of the more important lines did make this piece of nonsense possible, of which I'm still pretty proud. I mean, really.
Now, in Valjean's defense, Thenardier (or one of his gang) DID shout "police!" as he was fleeing, so Valjean did have some reason to believe Javert might be there... but at first glance it still looks a bit odd.
"On My Own" was breathtaking. I fully approve of the people-who-boss-such-things' decision to move it back in time and have it take place right after AHFOL. The impact of just having seen the man she loved meeting the woman HE loved would definitely be devastating to poor Eponine, and since she doesn't have to play the Pony Express in this version, it makes sense for her to sing her famous soliloquy here instead of on her way back from delivering Marius' letter.
Interesting to note-- just as she sings the line "the streets are full of strangers," some random dude walks by in the background. I wouldn't call that street exactly full, but hey, there's one stranger. It makes more sense than it does onstage, when she's completely alone for the entire song. Ha.
Really, though, I wish Samantha Barks had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress along with Anne Hathaway. I almost wish she'd won instead. She put so much emotion into that song, so much of what Eponine was feeling and thinking, that I felt like I knew Eponine better than I ever had before. That line, "I love him, but every day I'm learning..." when she brings her head up from her knees is just spine-tingling. Also tearjerking. But hey, that's a given.
"One Day More"... I don't have words. It was incredible. So well executed, so well sung (okay, except for Valjean and Javert... sorry guys...) and so breathtaking. Eponine dressing as a boy, Marius' frantic search for Cosette, Enjolras and the students preparing for the barricades (um, yes, I cried again... because THEY'RE going to die TOO), the Thenardiers pinching pistols and kissing people (poor Joly, I bet he fumigated himself afterwards) and the crowd of people getting swept up in the whole thing.
Pity it didn't last. One minute there... then they were gone. Sure, it was easy to get caught up in the emotionalism of the moment, to pledge to support the revolution and stand strong, but as soon as the going got rough and the soldiers arrived, things took a different turn. "You in the barricades, listen to this-- no one is coming to help you to fight..."
But I won't spoil the epic-ness of this song with morbid thoughts of what's to come. For now, let's just enjoy one of the most amazing songs in the musical.
For my part, I've been singing and humming this song all day today. Because for me it really is one day more--- one day until I see my best friend, live and in person. Which means that blogging will be pretty much nonexistent until I get back from the state-where-Melody-lives. We do hope to update you all during our visit, but I will definitely not be posting Part Three until I get back.
Sooooo... this will have to do for the present. But never fear, I shall return. To haunt you.
One more dawn, one more day, ONE DAY MORE!