Ahhh musicals. They are supposed to be incredible feats of imagination where the cast randomly burst into pleasure filled songs. Gut-wrenching ballads and toe-tapping numbers automatically life the spirits of those watching. As you jovially master the words and are lifted by the crescendos, you’ll be awash high excitement, glee and all round loveliness. That is, until you watch these movies where your trust in musicals goes up in flames and you’ll be crouched in the corner wondering what you did in a past life to bestow so much pain. These musical creators have damned our spirits, crushing them down into a tiny box so we’ll never sing again.
(On this note, I’ve left off Les Miserables because it’s crushing all the way through. Oh, spoiler alert, there’s a lot of people holding dying people).
Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s work possible was underrated on first release and has gradually built up acclaim. Though vocally leads Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are a bit lacking, Burton’s version was a gothic horror romp that is filled with blood, gore and cannibalism. Ok. So. Yeah, Sweeny Todd hasn’t the best reputation for being jolly throughout but it has a certain flare to it that captures the gleeful killing of revenge. The film revolves around the titular character on a murderous spree after a Judge wrongfully accused him of a crime to get to his wife and young daughter. In ends with Todd killing his wife, who went made after the Judge’s rape. Both Todd and Mrs Lovett are dead by the end of it. But the saddest is Todd mourning his wife, never finding his daughter again and bleeding to death over his spouses corpse.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
This is one of the few movies that I actually stop before the end. Like the whole finale didn’t happen. Life is better that way. Baz Luhrmann has created a modern movie musical that is brilliant with incredible songs ripped right from pop culture. Starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, it tells the tale of a penniless writer Christian who falls in love with a prostitute named Satin of the famed titular strip club. The ending is pretty devastating though. After the Duke threatens to have Christian killed, Satin mercifully gives in to the Duke’s admirations to save her true love. There is a big show and Christian proves that love is all that matters, the Duke is punched and everyone sings about how great it is to love. Except, Satin then succumbs to tuberculosis. And the worst thing is that you are told from the beginning and it is brought up many times. But hearing McGregor sob, it is winding.
This is a musical about decadence in the Nazi era. There is nothing about that by-line that makes you think that the whole cabaret culture based movie will end in sunshine and roses. Then again, watching Liza Manelli thrive on stage with Joel Grey and delight in multiple sexual relationships alongside her on-off partner Brian. Directed by Bob Fosse, the dance moves and musical numbers sucker you in to a wonderful glee filled staged movie that is only juxtaposed by the eerie Nazi up-rising, Sally Bowles and Brian’s relationship being torn by admiration for the same man and an abortion. I’ll be honest, the finale of the stage version is much worse because not only those this happen but the performers, including Emcee are gassed…on stage. However, the chilling finale of the film has the mirrors of The Kit Kat club perforated by Swastika’s, reflecting their doomed future.
West Side Story (1961)
Based on Romeo and Juliet, a play where teenagers fall in love, six people die and the pair commit suicide, doesn’t bode well for the ending of West Side Story. However, in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ musical starring Natalie Woods loses you in big skirts, lots of dancing and finger snapping gangsters. The tale revolves around the Jets and the Stars where Tony and Maria are star struck lovers caught in the warfare. Though the movie does change from Shakespeare’s original tragedy with added show tunes, it is these songs that really make the film worse. Tony is shot and killed during a reunited run between the lovers. Maria, sobbingly sings over his dying body “Somewhere” which will encourage tears from your eyes.
Dancer In The Dark (2000)
Literally, one of those movies that suckers you in with it’s naïve main character only to tear your spirits up and have Lars Von Trier drink your tears like the evil movie maker he is. Once you’ve watched Dancer In The Dark, there is no way you can enjoy the gleeful songs such as Cvalda and Selma’s brilliant personality is stamped upon because of the final few seconds. Played by Bjork, Selma is a factory worker who is gradually going blind. She has been saving up for her son, Gene, to get his eyesight fixed. Only her neighbour Paul attempts to steal the money to get himself out of debt and forces Selma to kill him (literally, he makes her shoot him). Selma is convicted of murder, penalty of death. But instead of using the money for a lawyer, she gives her life so Gene can see.
Worse thing? They kill her mid-song. Her finale? Cut short. It leaves you hollowed out by its brutality.
No. I’m not crying.
Don’t touch me…
WHAT DO YOU THINK?