Saturday, August 4, 2012

Les Miserables

The film version of the musical is coming out in December. It stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, and although I love Hugh in pretty much everything, I have some beef with the musical itself. The music is fine—some of the songs are great. But the lyrics are lacking. I'd like to highlight three of my favorite bad lyrics.

1) From Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream":

"But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame."

Mixed. Metaphor. Just read it. Where are these tigers coming from? It totally breaks the mood of the setting of revolutionary France to bring in exotic predators. And it's a bad metaphor. Tigers aren't seductive, and when's the last time you heard someone complain about a tiger turning their dream to shame? Ugh. And the great thing about this song is that Fantine reaches climactic cheesiness right on these lines—right as she's climbing up the scale on "shame." I HATE THIS SONG SO MUCH.

And actually, I really don't like the music either. The intro, with that repetitive E-flat, makes me think of Peter Seller's parody of "Night and Day," where he played the beginning in Morse code.

2) From Cosette's "Castle on a Cloud":

"Crying at all is not allowed,
Not in my castle on a cloud."

This is maybe my most hated number in the whole musical. I like the kind of Renaissance treatment that the theme gets when Valjean shows up, BUT this song was born tired. And these lyrics represent the lowest of lows in the song. In my minds eye, I can see the worn page in the rhyming dictionary for the entry, "cloud." And so we get the line, "Crying at all is not allowed." Let's think about this practically. Making crying a punishable offense seems to work against itself:

"What is that you're doing? Crying?!"
"No, officer! I swear I wasn't!"
"You're in for it now! We don't put up with any of that nonsense. Not in the castle on the cloud!"

3) From "Do You Hear the People Sing"

"Do you hear the people sing,
singing the song of angry men?"

Outside of a musical, when's the last time you heard someone say, "I'm so mad I could just…just sing!" The answer is never. You've never heard anyone say that ever.

I could go on, but I won't.

I'm learning that I don't particularly like musicals. They tend to be hammy and tasteless, sung by people who are over-trained to over-act—people who can sing loud but not necessarily well.

That said, I'm absolutely going to see the movie come December. I really like the book, and I really like Hugh Jackman. And you know what? After The Dark Knight Rises, I'm really liking Anne Hathaway. Let's just hope there's some leather pants in Fantine's future. Am I right?

But seriously, Hathaway did a fantastic job in DKR. Just please never ask her to host the Oscars again. Although, she did a great duet with Hugh Jackman in '09:


1 comment:

  1. Outside of a musical, when's the last time you heard someone say, "I'm so mad I could just…just sing!" The answer is never. You've never heard anyone say that ever.Great stuff

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