REVIEW: Les Miserables

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Based on the musical, based on the book, this is basically Catch Me If You Can set in Revolution era France, with Wolverine, Gladiator, Catwoman, Borat and some legendarily powerful music. How does Les Misérables transfer from stage to screen?

les_miserables_ver11Les Misérables.
Directed- Tom Hooper.
Jean Valjean- Hugh Jackman
Javert- Russell Crowe
Fantine- Anne Hathaway
Cosette- Amanda Seyfried
Thénardier- Sacha Baron Cohen
Madame Thénardier- Helena Bonham Carter
Marius- Eddie Redmayne
Éponine- Samantha Barks

Jean Valjean is imprisoned for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release, Inspector Javert vows to be there if Valjean ever falters, or disappears. Valjean promptly changes his identity and disappears. Over the next 20 years Inspector Javert endeavours to capture Valjean, as Valjean raises Cosette, who is the daughter of Fantine. All this, and France is just out of one revolution, staring down the barrel of another…

LES MASSIVE PRODUCTION

To begin with…The music is obviously great, otherwise the stage show wouldn’t be as vastly successful as it is. Numbers like I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home, Master Of The House and Red And Black are flat out brilliant. When it comes to the movie itself, this production is pretty epic: with off the charts production value, and song performances and staging that are for the most part brilliant. There’s a massive scale to this movie that you just cannot achieve on stage. And the way they recorded the songs enables the performers to truly emote. It really is acting…with music and lyrics.

LES MARVEVLOUS CAST

Jackman carries the weight of the movie, much as he carries the flag at the end of the opening number. His performance is great, and he hits all the notes, while his voice also conveying the hard times he has endured. However, he does falter, as does almost everyone in fairness, when singing random lines of exposition and “dialogue”. Crowe’s performance, like his voice, while not exceptional, is consistent. That said, I did notice though that his head is basically a moley hair covered egg. Baron Cohen steals most of the scenes he is in, as he brings much needed levity to the movie, and his teaming with Bonham Carter is solid. The real star is Hathaway, who is AMAZING, particularly her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream. She belts out the song, with the camera unflatteringly close up…resulting in an emotional gut punch that you won’t forget. It is the best sequence in the movie, leaving you shuddering with goose bumps and tingles.

BOTTOM LINE: LES MEH

Problem is, that is the high point of the movie, and it’s in the first 45 minutes of a 160 minute movie. Tom Hooper does a great job of transferring the show from stage to screen. The movie looks petty great, with an admirable scale that probably wasn’t easy to achieve, and Hooper deserves credit for this. This is the best possible movie version of the stage show. However, this is just not a great movie. It peaks too early, with Hathaway’s performance, and dips from there. A movie that starts with a boat parking, and ends in revolution, somehow starts much bigger than it finishes.

The movie is clearly divided in to three acts, divided by title cards demonstrating the passage of time. The tale is relentlessly downbeat. This is the fault of the source materials, not the movie itself. The music, while very good, isn’t as massively soary and all encompasing as one would expect. The teen love bit in the last act is a bit lame, but Samantha Barks shines, reprising her roll from the stage production. Eddie Redmayne has a great voice, but also has a very slappable face. And Seyfried is good but not great, like the movie itself.

So…This movie is not Les Happy Folk, as it’s pretty grim going for everyone. The main failings of the movie come from the story of the book, and the format of the stage show. But this is a staggering production, with solid performances throughout, particularly Hathaway. If you know and like the show, you will love this. If you don’t, you’ll be impressed with the music, and the scale of the movie, but could leave unimpressed by the story told.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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