Ah, the award-winning musical Les Misérables – that is pronounced, as Pee-wee Herman would say “LAY MIZERABLAH” – but for the average lazy type such as myself, let’s just call it “Les Mis,” as it is so often called. Anyway, to those unfamiliar, Les Mis takes place at the cusp of the French Revolution, a trying time of political oppression but also of hope and resilience against the odds. Our tale focuses on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-con who spends his life running from a ruthless officer called Javert (Russel Crowe), and finally finds redemption when he takes in the ailing daughter of a victim of circumstance named Fantine (Anne Hathaway).
As mentioned, Les Mis is an ambitious and timeless piece, so really it was about time that the musical in all its entirely was presented on the big screen. Frankly, I don’t think performance-wise it couldn’t have been casted better. Jackman and Hathaway give powerhouse performances – honestly if Hathaway doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her performance I’ll be shocked. Do you know how hard it is to cry and sing at the same time – and well at that? It’s just a shame she didn’t get more screen-time than she did, but what she gave was truly unforgettable.
Also did anyone else forget Russel Crowe could sing? I knew he could but it’s just been so long. Watching him size up Jackman was really impressive as well. Additionally, I feel that the pairing of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers was a breath of fresh air in this dark and dreary setting.
I think my only real complaint on the performances was in regards to Cosette and Marius – Amanda Seyfried’s too shrill and Eddie Redmayne’s too…odd. I don’t know, his voice was strangely guttural and he just looks like his face got stretched or something. Quite honestly, the young couple bothered me the most in this whole production. I know that them meeting across the street and doing the love-at-first-sight thing is how it’s always been, but it’s just so painfully cliche it’s infuriating. I was really hoping they would’ve added more detail into their relationship to make it more realistic, but they just kept it going like they knew each other for years. I call shenanigans.
On the note of various irks and the like, I seriously wanted to slap the camera folk in the face once or twice. The idea of doing absurdly close close-ups is interesting at first, because it does a great job of capturing the intensity of the moment. However, when you have a static shot of every vein in Hugh Jackman’s forehead for three minutes, it gets a little draining. Then when the camera wasn’t static it was sloppily moving about and seemed to be struggling to focus on the right parts of people’s faces. Then sometimes it would do random things, such as one scene where Valjean’s having a conversation with Marius: before they begin speaking, the camera’s tilted slightly for a good few seconds – sure it’s a minute detail, but it was so sudden it was very confusing, especially because there wasn’t any reference to anything like this before – did the camera operator just get bored? I really wouldn’t blame them, with the amount of static takes. I suppose sloppy is the ideal phrase when describing the camera work in this movie, which is terribly unfortunate because the production design is so incredibly gorgeous. That and I adored the framing in The King’s Speech, so I really wonder what went so awry for Tom Hooper on this production.
Les Mis is a two and a half hours of pure entertainment – filled with gorgeous design and heart-wrenching performances, like any decent Broadway show. Now if it wasn’t for the cliches and the frustrating camera work, Les Misérables would be A-worthy. Regardless, this film is a great way to start off the new year.
Final Grade: B