Do you hear the people sing?
Les Miserables is directed by Tom Hooper and is based on the musical of the same name by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg which in turn is based on Victor Hugo's 1862 French novel of the same name. The film features an ensemble cast, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen. It was nominated for eight Oscars and won three for Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway.
The 2012 film version of Les Miserables marks around the umpteenth time that the musical based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel has been put to film, and yet, it seems that because this is the umpteenth time that Les Miserables has been put to film, the music lovers of the world have yet to tire of the musical's non-stop singing, and no filmmaker is yet convinced that an utterly perfect film adaptation of Les Miserables currently exists, and thus, the likes of Tom Hooper want to hopefully be the one who makes that utterly perfect adaptation and give the kiss of death to all future Les Mis adaptations. Let it be stated now that the dream of an utterly perfect Les Miserables will still have to wait, because Tom Hooper's Les Miserables is far from a masterpiece. But thankfully for him and Universal Pictures, the flaws the film contains weren't repulsive enough to scare away ticket buyers, with the film getting a Christmas Day release and going on to rake in over $440 million worldwide.
With the kind of star power in the cast and the movie clocking in at a hair above two and a half hours, there's no denying that this Les Mis is going all in for being that epic musical that will sock you right in the feels and have you begging and pleading for everyone you know and love to watch it as well. It may come as a surprise that this was Hugh Jackman's live action musical film debut, but given that the man had already developed such a potent career by then, anyone could agree that he was more than up to the challenge of portraying the film's lead.
The general plot is unchanged, concerning a series of story lines that all intersect in some way. The main story liner follows prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who serves nineteen years after stealing a loaf of bread, eventually being released on parole. Valjean's parole status prevents him from finding work, but he is offered temporary shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson). Valjean tries to steal some silver from the Bishop, but after being captured, the Bishop reveals that he wants Valjean to take the silver and use it to start a new life Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and the mayor of Montreuli, Pas-de-Calais. However, Valjean is being pursued by police inspector Javert, who is vying to have Valjean convicted and properly punished for his crimes. The game of cat and mouse between the two spans over twenty years.
The other story line concerns one of Valjean's factory workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who is fired after a note is discovered that states that Fantine has been sending her earnings to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. Fantine turns to prostitution, being arrested by Javert after attacking a customer. Valjean arrives on the scene and is able to take Fantine to a hospital. As Fantine lies dying in a hospital bed, Valjean promises that he will find Cosette and raise her as his own daughter. Cosette grows up under Valjean's care, and she soon encounters Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a young man who is a part of a revolutionary group that intends to overthrow the French monarchy. Marius and Cosette instantly fall in love, much to the envy of Eponine (Samantha Barks), a young girl who secretly loves Marius.
Trying to describe the plot of Les Mis without giving at least half it away is an impossible task, because the movie goes well beyond the pursuit of Valjean by Javert, which should not be the only thing one ought to know about the film. The characters are all linked together in some way, despite the fact that many of them have their own separate agendas in mind. But at the end of the day, many of the characters end up assisting one another, such as Valjean coming to help the revolutionists in their efforts towards overthrowing the monarchy. And yes, if you've seen the musical on stage anywhere, the same principle applies when it comes to the music: nearly every line is sung, with just a few tid bits of spoken dialogue here and there.
- I am sure there are some folks out there who are annoyed with the sort of bombastic approach of the musical with EVERYTHING needing to be sung. And when I say EVERYTHING being sung, that also includes many lines of dialogue that could very easily get their point across by just being spoken normally ("Hey there Monsieur, what's new with you?", "Marius! You're late!'). I actually find there to be a certain entertainment factor attached to the movie's non-stop singing. Even when it seems as if the movie has slowed down at all, the character's singing is there to assure you that the movie is always maintaining an upbeat spirit and making itself completely immune to the boredom that usually develops when talky conversations drag on too long and feature no heated nor memorable dialogue. Les Mis is no culprit of bad music, and when the music is coming at you full throttle, through singing and through instruments, it's hard not to be sucked into how musically passionate the movie intends to be.
- Anne Hathaway is spectacular in her limited screen time; "I Dreamed A Dream" easily being the best musical number in the film. Hathaway's singing pierces you with a bullet of pure emotion, and that Oscar of hers is rightfully deserved.
- Oh Russell Crowe, where in the world did you get your singing lessons? I guess I was lying a little bit when I said Les Mis (this version of Les Mis, that is) is no culprit to bad music, because Crowe would have Claude-Michel Schonberg wanting to drive off a cliff, being so offended by his music being sung with such ineptitude that he couldn't afford to have his ears subjected to any further torment. Crowe strains his vocal cords trying to sing, sounding like a man in the midst of a fight with highly advanced throat cancer. Crowe himself admitted to the film suffering from poor vocal performances, stating that Hooper wanted the voices to be "raw and real". Crowe also doesn't show much poise with acting while singing, failing to sell Javert as a man who is not so much a villain but more of a misguided individual with his intentions. With Javert being such a crucial character to the story, the whole movie suffers from Crowe's failures.
When you put everything together, Les Mis is a satisfying musical drama that has enough powerful performances to make up for those that are not so powerful (*cough cough* Russell Crowe *cough cough*). Anne Hathaway is the best of them all, and it's a total bummer that she's only in the movie for about a half hour. If you enjoyed seeing the musical on stage in a theater production somewhere, chances are quite good that you'll highly enjoy this film adaptation. And if not, there are plenty of older ones to look at instead .
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