In defence of Russell Crowe’s singing
I didn’t know a lot about Les Misérables before I watched it the other night.
I hadn’t read the novel it’s based on; I had never seen it performed on a stage and I wasn’t familiar with the music.
I knew one thing though: that I should keep my hands ready so I could put them over my ears as soon as Russell Crowe opened his mouth. It seemed as if the critics were divided about Les Mis, but if there was one thing everyone agreed on it was this: Russell Crowe was the worst singer ever.
So I sat there, hands up and ready, waiting for it. I imagined I would be exposed to something along the lines of the “singing” by my dear father, who – bless him – despite being tone-deaf loved to hum or talk his ways through songs, where the text was the only clue to which song it was intended to be since he just hit random notes, if any at all.
But what I got wasn’t anything near the performance of my father. It was – as far as I’m concerned – perfectly acceptable singing, well suited to the somewhat rough, edgy character he was supposed to play. If I had issues with any of the singers in the movie, it would rather concern the trained ones. A concert like pitch perfect vibrato risks to sound as strangely polished if you’re standing on the barricades fighting for your life. More like a concert than a piece of real drama.
However I’m not going to complain about any of the singers. I loved them all, polished or non-polished, as I loved the entire movie. Once I got over the first five minutes of “WTF, people are singing instead of talking” shock that is unavoidable when watching musicals, I was completely wrapped up in it.
I didn’t need quite as many napkins as the reputation of the film ad lead me to believe; I stopped at getting a bit dusty in my eyes a few times during the night.
The scene that moved me most wasn’t Anne Hathaway crying her heat out while shaving her hair. I was more gripped by the character Jean Valjean. Living as an outcast he takes shelter one night at the place of a priest. The next morning he takes off with the silver. As he is caught by the police, the priest doesn’t turn him in. Instead he saves Valjean, insisting that the stuff he took was a gift. He even offers him a pair of chandeliers, saying that Valjean had forgotten them. This act of love becomes a life changer for Valjean, who from now on tries live a caring, unselfish life while escaping from his nemesis Javert.
Les Misérables is big, beautiful and shamelessly sentimental. I can understand that it’s not for everyone, but it is for me.
I left the theatre, satisfied as if I’d just had a delicious five-course dinner with the freedom song of the rebels ringing in my ears. This is a meal I’d be happy to eat again.
Les Misérables (Tom Hooper, UK 2012) My rating: 4,5/5