REVIEW: Les Mis fails on some fronts, flourishes on others
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 16:01
I’m not a die hard “Les Miserables” fan.
I’ll admit my exposure to the story is limited.
I read an abridged version of Victor Hugo’s novel nine years ago. In my entire life I listened to one song completely and heard bits and pieces of some of the other songs. In essence, the movie “Les Miserables” was my first experience with the songs and musical story.
The story of “Les Miserables” is too complicated to mention in a simple summary. For that, check CliffsNotes. The lessons in the movie are just as true as they were when they were first written: forgiveness, redemption, hope and freedom.
The movie had a grand feel to it. It effectively took the feel of a stage performance and turned it into a large masterpiece. “Les Miserables” was composed of the songs from the Broadway musical with slight additions of action, music, and dialog.
Don’t mistake this for a filmed stage production. The movie is a raw and heavy. It allows for things to be done that can’t be effectively demonstrated on any stage.
Much of the hype of “Les Miserables” came from the announcement that the singing was to be recorded on the sets rather than a post-production dubbing. With the technology and methods of modern film, this wasn’t much of a dramatic achievement. During most of the songs, the camera was close to the actors, making it convenient to have a boom microphone very near to the singing.
What was more impressive was the raw emotion the actors put into the songs. It was more than a person hitting the notes perfectly while standing still on a stage. The actors had liberty to act and bring more feeling to the characters than the songs could by themselves.
Unlike a stage performance, there’s no intermission, which makes the movie movie seem long. It’s more than two and a half hours.
The filming was done with the shaky cam methods, much like “The Bourne Supremacy,” in an attempt to further draw the audience into the scenes.
The songs and most of the music came from Claude-Michel Schonberg, the original composer of the Broadway production, helping to keep the film familiar to the fans and powerful to all.
Director Tom Hooper brought a strong background from “The King’s Speech” to tackle the challenges of bringing one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time to the silver screen. He did a great job and will probably have his pick of movies from now on.
“Les Miserables,” the pinnacle of the story brought to film, featured an all-star cast. Hugh Jackman’s a strong, highly-talented actor with a background in Broadway, making him perfect for the commanding physical performance of Jean Valjean.
Recognized everywhere as Wolverine for his part in the “X-Men” movie franchise, Jackman has also shown other sides of his abilities in “The Prestige” and “Australia.”
Russell Crowe was perfect as Javier. Everything I’d ever imagined in Javier was present in Crowe. Best known for “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” Crowe’s an excellent actor, and I look forward to seeing him again this summer in “Man of Steel” as Superman’s father Jor-El.
I was surprised to hear Crowe singing. He’s never had a singing role in a film before. As a matter of trivia, he’s part of a rock group, The Ordinary Fear of God.
Anne Hathaway was simply amazing. As she played one of the most unfortunate characters in the story, she brought everything to the table. She effectively showed the desperate situation Fantine was in with all the distraught and trauma that came with it. Hathaway is a force to be reckoned with. Her other screen talents include “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Princess Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” She seems to continuously develop her skills as her acting career progresses.
I’ve never been incredibly impressed with Amanda Seyfried, but she did a decent job as Cosette. She’s a plausible adult of the younger Cosette. Her previous acting includes “Gone,” “Red Riding Hood” and “Mamma Mia.”
Sacha Baron Cohen is quite a varied actor. He’s been the star of an intriguing series of characters in title movies “Borat,” “Bruno” and “The Dictator.” He’s quite skilled at singing as well, as he demonstrates as Thenardier. He’s crazy but smooth.
Madame Thenardier is played extraordinarily by Helena Bonham Carter. She’s proven herself as a magnificent singer and actor, participating in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
Colm Wilkinson must be mentioned for his performance as the Bishop in the movie because he played Jean Valjean in the 1985 performance of “Les Miserables.”
If you’re a fan of Les Miserables, whether it’s the story or the songs, you’ll want to see this movie sometime, but not necessarily in theaters.
— Spencer Palmer is a graduate student working toward an MBA with a recent bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Email him at email@example.com or visit his website, themovieknight.wordpress.com