Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson
Gaston Leroux, Joel Schumacher
"The Phantom of the Opera" has within it an Oscar nominated song called "Learn to be Lonely." This was particularly appropriate this evening as I was the sole viewer of this film thanks to a free ticket I received that had been won by a radio contest participant.
Now, I must confess that I have never fancied myself a Lloyd Webber fan...and I am not a huge fan of "Phantom" either. Quite honestly, I find it boring, poorly paced and I find the music to be histrionic. This is not a film I'd have ever paid to see, and even at the price of zilch I found myself hesitant. This could have been an Oscar nominee for "Best Picture" and I doubt I'd have rated it above the "B" range...it's just not my cup of tea.
That said...even with low expectations, I found myself incredible disappointed with this film and absolutely appalled that Emmy Rossum received any talk at all for an Oscar nomination, even though she probably was the highlight of the film.
While I don't quite have the rampant anti-Joel Schumacher feelings that many have, I can't deny that he has ruined many films AND I can't help but feel he was an incredibly poor choice to direct this film. Truly, what were the producers thinking?
I wanted to leave this film. In fact, I got up to leave twice. I tried desperately to leave. In fact, I even worked through my "I have to stay so I can rate it feelings." I became so irritated by this film that I didn't even care about rating it anymore...I just wanted the pain to end.
Why so painful? First, and foremost, "The Phantom." Gerard Butler was, in my estimation, an idiotic choice for this complex and challenging lead. I am not kidding when I say that I spent more time staring at the dimple on his chin than listening to his expressions. Butler is an average singer, at best, and simply couldn't add the depth and emotion necessary to develop this role. At no point in this film did I care about him, feel for him or bond with him on any level. In essence, he became more a "phantom menace."
On the other hand, Rossum's "Christine" had considerable appeal and ultimately fit the mood and affect necessary for the role. Yet, once again, I found myself wanting so much more variation and characterization...Rossum was good, but Christine deserved even better.
In supporting roles, Patrick Wilson and Miranda Richardson were serviceable but really offered nothing special. My true fondness was reserved for Jennifer Ellison in the role of Meg...and, quite honestly, this had more to do with pure and simple lust than it did a fondness for her performance. Finally, Minnie Driver as Carlotta? Sometimes, only one word is needed...in this case the word I choose is "Ick."
"Phantom" received 3 Oscar nominations including the aforementioned song along with art direction and cinematography. Indeed, it certainly was visually appealing in quite a few places and I would give kudos to the art direction team.
I admire, on a certain level, Schumacher's desire to add some uniqueness to the film version of "Phantom of the Opera." It's a lofty, but admirable vision. Unfortunately, it is a vision that is best left to a director experienced in musical theatre...a director NOT named Joel Schumacher.
As I was sitting in the auditorium ALONE watching this film I kept looking around hoping there was a chandelier above me getting ready to plummet to the ground to end my misery. Sadly, a LONG nearly two and a half hours later my misery ended...and even with my free ticket I found myself feeling ripped off and regretting how I had just spent my precious evening.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic