Since I am a big musicals fan, I was overjoyed when I heard that Ryan Murphy was doing a film version of the show for Netflix. But, I was also quite petrified – I championed that show from the beginning. I have always gravitated towards smaller heart-filled musicals, and you bet I was rooting for this show against Hadestown. You see, I can be a Brodsway purist when it comes to these things, and I am scared of what Murphy would do to my small, intimate gem of a musical.
Well, the movie is finally here. And for starters, do we really need this cast? A friend of mine called it ‘stacked,’ and yes that sure is an apt description – Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden – these are big names. But in my world, they fill bigger shoes: Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmankas, who both to me are close to perfection in these roles. And yes, I have just got to get this off my chest: Streep underwhelmed me here. I know she is a goddess, but I felt she was off here – she strained to hit notes (Dee Dee’s songs were made for a belter) and they even made her look like Beth Leavel, so I ask: why didn’t they just hire Leavel (I know, tiny violins for me) As for Corden, much has been said for his ‘offensive’ characterization of a gay man, but to be honest, I thought he would be worse. Was I offended by his performance? No. But surely he was just following Murphy’s direction (or non direction, perhaps) And did we really need Nicole Kidman for Angie Dickinson – it’s a small-ish role for someone of her stature, And Angie Schworer is someone who lived that role (was probably even named after her)
But I have to say, though, I was thrilled to see this (I wish I had seen it on a big theatrical screen) because everything looked great amplified. The fuller orchestrations has made the score soar, though ti sometimes also highlighted deficiencies in Matthew Sklar’s music and Chade Beguelin’s lyrics. I cannot complain about Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma, who is utterly charming here and sings her songs perfectly (she may be a bit perfect for the role, but who cares) and Arian Dubose just whet my appetite for her Maria in. Spielberg’s West Side Story. And of course, it is glorious that the message of the show is there for all to see and absorb, and on Netflix it will sure to reach millions.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the film. I just have to set aside all my bias, and just accept that this version is a different one from the stage version. It’s surely not the worst thing in the world.
I’ll just leave this right here: