A Heavy, Heart-Wrenching, Heavenly Movie9/10
This movie worried me. Being a fan of the original work, I was truly worried. Given the intricate and complicated mode or storytelling, as well as the music, which is advanced music, far above the simple rock chords of RENT or PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, I worried that either it wouldn't transfer well or that the charm and emotional pull of the piece would be lost. Let me set those worries right to rest - this musical is everything the original work was and more, but more importantly, this musical is fresh. What do I mean by fresh? Well, the original work was performed in 2002. Some of the lyrics reflect that (eg, references to Borders bookstores). But the musical has been revitalized for a more modern audience. Skype is used, Russell Crowe's less-than-wonderful musical turn is referenced. The orchestration is updated, but not mangled, to fit a more mainstream audience.
Now, onto the actual movie.
First, the stars. This may be one of the best musical movies ever made, simply because of the casting. For those that don't know, the story focuses on only two characters - Cathy and Jamie. No one else sings, and virtually no one else has any sort of character. Most oftentimes, the film industry casts star pull over talent, as evidenced by Russell Crowe as Javert, Gerard Butler as the Phantom of the Opera, and Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd. But this is not the case here. While Anna Kendrick has some star pull with her recent success, she is clearly more talent that star power. She truly shines as Cathy, a slightly bookish, slightly wimpy musical theater star-in-the-making. Her vocal power is just what this role has been yearning for. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jeremy Jordan, whom only musical theater fans will know. His success on the cult favorite hit, SMASH, notwithstanding, Jordan is here purely for talent. And what a talent he is! Surpassing everyone who has played the role thus far, Jordan winks and smiles his way through as the impish egotistical, yet loving Jamie. The stars are perfect for the roles they're in - nuff said.
Now, the direction. Richard LaGravanese works wonders with the movie. The way he chose to present each scene and how they all tie together in the end is a work of art and a joy to behold as a musical theater nerd myself.
Third, the cinematography. This is the ONLY (read: only) slight qualm I have with the film. The shooting style, at times, feel cagey, and sometimes too intimate. This is a very intimate story, but sometimes, the camera work feels like it was not used to its full effect. Then, however, there are times when the movie works beautifully on a cinematographic level. The sequence, "A Summer In Ohio" is one of the best-choreographed and best-shot musical numbers ever. "The Next Ten Minutes", however, is one of the worst. You're getting both ends of the spectrum here.
There's not much else to talk about. There was no big special effects budget. There is no supporting cast to speak of. The music is immune to criticism. If you love musical theater, The Last Five years stage play, love stories, or just interesting movies, this is the movie for you!