Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schoneberg, Victor Hugo (novel)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried
Reviewed by: Scott
I sat down to watch this film with my wife, who loves musicals and has never seen Les Mis. I had seen the earlier version done with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman which I remember enjoying but not being blown away by. Well 30 minutes into the film my wife was annoyed and wanted to be somewhere else. Needless to say she did not enjoy this film at all and was visibly angry that she had wasted precious amounts of sleep, having a newborn will often make you realize how important your time is and how important sleep is but I digress.
Les Miserables has been done over and over again through every medium; TV, theater, and countless movies, I also read it was made into a comic book once, that being said I certainly do not understand the reasoning behind making this movie. What new are you going to bring to the table? The answer to that question is really nothing. New players but same old production. Les Mis is more of an opera movie than it is a musical, in most musicals you have some standard dialogue and a lot more choreographed dancing scenes, Les Mis has very little of that.
For those of you , like my wife, who have no idea what the film is about I will fill you in briefly. Les Mis is about freed prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in 1815 France, who turns his life around but is in hiding due to breaking his parole. Jean changes his name to avoid capture and becomes a wealthy factory owner but his past will soon catch up to him when Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) soon crosses his path, Javert had been seeking Jean Valjean since he had broken his parole. Valjean, feeling like he must save local prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) puts his freedom at risk and Javert is back on the case. Valjean goes into hiding again and raises Fantine’s child Cosette as his own as he promised to do while Fantine was on her death-bed. Fast forward 10 years and Cosette is grown and falls for revolutionary Marius which poses a new problem for Valjean. As you can imagine there is a lot going on and several story lines to follow but the main theme is the importance of love and compassion regardless of circumstances.
There are so many actors and actresses that play an important role the only way I know how to go about a summary of performances is by listing and explaining how I felt about them in the film. First and foremost Hugh Jackman held his own but I must tell it was very difficult to not laugh in the beginning of the film, it was a little odd for me but that wore off as I got used to it. Russell Crowe I never got used to and from what I have read most people think he did a good job, I could not take him seriously at all and was a lingering shadow throughout the whole film. Anne Hathaway certainly sang well but her role was so small and a bit over dramatic, but out of all the actors and actresses her small part was better than most, she certainly had the most emotional part of the film. Sacha Baren Cohen, who turned down Django Unchained for this part was not the most vocally talented of the group but I did enjoy his character Thenardier. He and Helen Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier) were at least entertaining and lightened the mood a bit, which was a necessary break from the miserable. Eddie Redmayne (Marius) I did not connect with or enjoy, there was just something about the cut of his jib that did not sit well with me. He did a decent job with the singing but his acting is a bit behind. The final actress I will discuss is Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), she was solid throughout and that has nothing to do with my being a fanboy of hers, maybe it does.
From the opening scene of Les Miserables it was battling for my attention and respect, the few scenes that actually felt right were few and far between. I found myself trying not to laugh, to take it seriously and give it a shot. At about the half way point of the film that feeling of discontent and uneasiness subsided and I was able to finish the movie, I even began to enjoy it. That being said a movie should not take 2 hours to get my attention, a movie like this demands your emotional connection so you can overlook Wolverine and Maximus settling their differences through song, a movie like this needs to grab you right away and Les Mis did the exact opposite.
I would be amiss if I did not mention set design and costumes which were incredibly well done and deserving of an Oscar nod for costume design, Les Miserables will certainly take down a few Oscars but not in the “big ” categories most likely costumes, make-up, and production design. The fact that this film is nominated for best picture while a movie like Moonrise Kingdom is not just goes to show you how the Academy can be perceived as stodgy. There is no way this film could or should win best picture, to me this film was mediocre at best and is taking up a spot of several other films worthy of an Oscar nomination. I give Les Miserables 1 and 1/2 guys.