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It should be said that while I do enjoy the occasional musical, I'm not really one to seek them out as they tend not to be naturally my thing; indeed my favorite musical is the South Park film, mainly because it manages to have its genre cake and mock it at the same time. So it took me a few minutes to get into the big chorus, singing dialogue thing here but early on I did. To speak of the first hour I had characters I engaged with, songs that mostly are memorable (although the singing is variable) and generally plenty of spectacle and flair in the delivery. The first hour of the film is by far the strongest and it contains a lot of the most emotionally moving aspects.
Much has been said about Hathaway and, sort of as a result I wasn't sure how much of it was hype for awards and how much of it was real, but she really is very good throughout her section. The highlight is of course I Dream a Dream, but her whole performance is emotionally charged but yet fragile at the same time. Problem is that with this and other strengths in the first hour, the rest of the film has a lot to live up to and, mostly, it doesn't really manage it. It runs to almost 3 hours and it really does feel long but weirdly at the same time it also feels rushed. It is hard to describe but the amount of story to be told seems too much to really fit in and do it well. As a result it never grabbed me quite as much as it had in that first hour; I still enjoyed it for its flair and spectacle but it felt like that is what I was watching, rather than characters or a story.
Beyond Hathaway the cast are not quite as strong. Jackman does well but not amazing; Seyfried is okay while Redmanye, Barks, Tveit and others are solid. Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter both overplay it but are amusing. The only real weak link is Crowe and it is a shame because he actually fits his character very well, it is just the fact that his singing voice is strained that poses a problem – but it is a big problem when you're making a musical. The production values are tremendously high, with great sets, great costumes and around these Hooper gives us some great set-pieces – with the downside of this being that it all seems so surface that it highlights the increasingly lack of much else going on elsewhere.
The film still is worth a look for this, but it is a shame that it peaks so early and only seems to slip away from there. It manages to feel overlong while also feeling rushed and needing more time; perhaps me not naturally being drawn to musicals was part of the issue, but it is a flawed but expensive film.
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