Phantom of the Opera
Corsets in, breasts out, masks on and mouths open wide; the phantom is back. I’ve heard complaints that to enjoy a film like Phantom, you have to like musicals. Well if you don’t like the idea of sweeping orchestrals, well-worn rhyming couplets (love/above) and people spontaneously breaking into (synchronised and choreographed) song and dance then for pete’s sake don’t watch it. But I for one like having my heart strings plucked, even sentimentally and sometimes even predictably.
Emily Rossum plays a suitably dewy Christine, with a constantly bewildered expression on her innocent face. This does become slightly annoying, as she doesn’t seem to mature enough throughout the film. There is however, one point in particular towards the end when her voice takes on a wonderfully mature turn and complexity which it didn’t have before and which we should have heard much more of. She just manages not to overdo the act, becoming genuinely sympathetic by the end.
The remainder of the cast sing brilliantly, Christine and Raoul’s voices complementing each other perfectly. Gerard Butler doesn’t quite match up to the other two in voice terms but acting-wise gives a great performance as the phantom. Even Minnie Driver who, having heard her hideous excuse for an album, I feared hearing in a musical. But she’s actually very funny as the prima donna in poly-filla make-up. And as a bonus, she doesn’t sing her own lines.
This has always been a brilliant musical, with a powerful score and a genuinely interesting and complex plot (never mind 6th form coursework, you could get a dissertation out of the ‘masquerade/duplicity/appearance theme’ – Shakespeare eat your heart out). I do think the film version does justice to the stage musical, but precisely because the original is so good. It didn’t add anything special of its own which it really needed to have done to be a classic. The movie Grease, for instance, now epitomises that story in a way the musical no longer does. I don’t believe that Phantom will manage this, but it was still powerful stuff, beautifully imagined. That damn music won’t leave my head either, much like the phantom. . .