Hugh Jackman Russell Crowe Anne Hathaway
Amanda Seyfried Eddie Redmayne Sacha Baron Cohen Helena Bonham Carter Samantha Barks
I am reviewing this film from the perspective of film only, as I have not and really have no interest in seeing the Broadway version. I have, however, seen and reviewed the pretty forgettable 1998 version starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is quite the gigantic spectacle. Its presence going into the 2012 Oscar race is enormous, which brings lots of preconceived notions, especially since Hooper won best director and best picture so recently with The Kings Speech. Les Miserables is powerful in both performance and spectacle, but let’s face it, Anne Hathaway dominates from the trailer to the actual movie, and her supporting performance, which lasts up until the 40 minute mark, is the stuff in which legends are made of.
Set in 1815 Paris, Jean Valjean (Jackman) has been released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a bite of bread for his starving family. Through kindness and forgiveness, God intervenes, pointing Jean in a direction that will change his life. Eight years later, and scraggly no more, Jean is a respected mayor who owns a sewing factory. One of his workers, the meek and desperate Fantine (Hathaway), is cast out by her co-workers and left to the streets to make money for her daughter to survive. Jean vows to protect Fantine’s daughter Cosette at all costs.
The decision from Hooper to have the actors perform live instead of dubbing their songs in post production certainly heightens the emotion of each performer, and no doubt forcing much more rehearsal and dedication. The downside to that is that the songs sound more rigid and less musical. The look of the film is spectacular, from the variety of period costumes to the extravagant set production and the stunning cinematography, the actors are really provided with a beautiful world in which to perform. The power of the film is certainly in the first hour, and I got antsy when the film ran over two hours and kept going. As one of those sing it as you say it musical films, this is probably the best one, even though I prefer musicals like Chicago and Moulin Rouge over this variety.
It’s the actors that have to sell this story and the emotion within. If you can watch Hathaway’s gut wrenching, vein popping, tear jerking “I Dreamed a Dream” performance and not get at least chill bumps you might be dead. Hathaway, who has flexed her voice muscles many times before, stands so far above everyone else in this production vocally. It’s the right time and the right performance for Hathaway to win the Oscar; it’s a done deal. We all know Jackman can sing and perform and his performance is good, but nothing surprising. Oscar winner Crowe, however, is the surprise; his voice is stunning. Crowe steps out on a limb, fighting for this part, and impressed me in each and every scene. He makes Javert the sorrowful and complex villain.
Final Thought – Hathaway delivers a perfect performance.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Tom Hooper, the director, has thrilled us once again (after The King’s Speech) with a stunning musical presentation of Les Miserables, a literary classic by Victor Hugo set in 19th Century France. The setting is a time after the French Revolution when democracy has faltered, another king has taken the throne, and the people are poor and abused. It is a story of pathos that wrestles with human guilt and redemption, the search for God and the right way of being, and the search for love, sometimes finding it and sometimes being thwarted. It’s a very human story told with utmost sympathy for those who do everything they know to do to survive and live well, but are knocked back at every turn. It speaks about “a grief that can’t be spoken and a pain that just goes on.”
The actors have noted their satisfaction with the technique of having the action filmed while they are singing, rather than recording their songs separately and dubbing the sound later. The film shows that this approach is successful in creating a more natural sound-action relationship. And speaking of the actors, they are really fine, and should be seriously considered for awards, especially Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, and Russell Crowe as Javert. Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Amanda Seyfried provide ample support, and Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are well suited to their comical roles of being greedy buffoons. Their behavior and costumes lend welcome comic relief in such a sad story.
The music in this production is beautifully rendered, and the cinematography is breathtaking at times and always on the mark.
For those who love classical works of rhapsody and depth, this film will please. Grade: A