Les Miserables: A Review
Having never read the book nor having seen the stage production I went in with no expectations whatsoever. I’d seen cast interviews I’d heard people’s comparisons but none of it meant anything to me. As I sat in the cinema, surrounded by a mass of old people who were unwrapping their foiled sandwiches, the room went dark, the screen lit up, and the show began.
Les Miserables follows the tales of Jean Valjean (Jackman), who is released from prison on parol after 19 years earlier for steeling a loaf of bread for his sister’s family, and we watch his long road to redemption. Soon after his release he falls back into a rough spot but through the grace of a minister he is given another chance at his freedom. Knowing that his criminal record would forever haunt him he assume a new identity and through providence becomes a wealthy man. Several years later in one of Valjean’s factories works a young woman named Fantine (Hathaway), who is working hard to support her child after her partner abandoned them several years back. When the word is out that she is a single mother she is thrown out of her job by Valjean’s foreman while at the same time Valjean’s past is catching up to him.
The story then follows Fantine on her road to destruction. When Valjean learns that her demise was the result of his negligence he offers to raise and support her daughter, Cosette. The rest of the story follows Valjean as he seeks out this young girl, who is in the care of the Thenardiers (Cohen & Bonham Carter), while being chased by Javert (Crowe) who was a prison guard that the time of Jean’s release from prison and who had been searching for his whereabout all these years later. Nine year later Valjean and Cosette (Seyfried) have manage to lead a life out of the public eye, but when a young man Marius (Redmayne), who is a member of a French revolt, sees Cosette he falls in love with her and she him. All comes to head as Javert closes in on Valjean while rebels prepare for battle and Cosette and Marius long to be together but cannot as a battle is eminent and Valjean is torn between fleeing with Cosette for their lives or letting this Marius be with his her.
Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech) does an outstanding job at bringing this long lived and loved musical to life. With a cast that commands the screen and with backdrops and sets that pull you in this was a masterful achievement. The fact that all the actors sang live on camera rather than dubbing their performances in the comforts of a studio shows not only real talent on the actors parts but incredible ingenuity on Hooper’s part. Recording live, like that, was a risky move but this film is certainly all the better for it. It helped to give the cast more changes to play with the lines and display their emotions in a more believable way as they are able to doing everything in that moment.
Props goes to Anne Hathaway who is absolutely brilliant in her role as Fantine. Though she is on screen for a very short amount of time, it is her performance that sticks with you long after the show has ended. Sacha Baron Cohen is indeed very commanding as is the lovely Helena Bonham Carter. Hugh Jackman is superb in his role of Jean Valjean. His performance is so packed with emotion that you cannot not be moved by him multiple times during this film. Having seen many musical adaptations on screen, Les Miserables is by far one of the best there is to date. If I were to criticise anything about the film it would be that though Russell Crowe is a good actor and commanding presence but he is not up to scratch when it comes to performing as a singer. He is, singing wise, the films weakest link. That said his performance does not in any way hold the film back. It is a power story that will engage you from start to finish. And for a film that is 2 hours and 40 minuets long I did not find myself getting board or wising things would speed up. This is a great film and a great musical. Go see it!