Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale. — (C) Universal Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Tom Hooper
Production Companies: Working Title Films, Universal Pictures
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Samantha Barks as Eponine
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras
Release Dates: 16 January 2013 (Philippines)
Genre: Musical, Drama, Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I am not a fan of Les Miserables as much as I am of The Phantom of the Opera but I respect and adore it for the beauty of the story and the songs. It’s my second favorite musical and I love it mostly because the actors on West End and Broadway share roles from both Les Miserables and Phantom. Heck, John Owen Jones, Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson and others have been Jean Valjean and Phantom/Erik at some point in their lives.
Les Miserables musical first caught my attention because of Lea Salonga’s version of I Dreamed A Dream when she played Fantine in the West End 25th anniversary. She made me cry after I listened to that one song so off I went and looked for a way to see the entire show. After watching it, I told myself that it really is one of the best (if not the best) musicals ever. I adore the 25th sans Nick Jonas. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate him but let’s admit it, he is not in the same level as Ramin Karimloo or Alfie Boe when it comes to voice quality–making it difficult for him to sing along with them without getting drowned out by more powerful voices. And I don’t even hate his voice, it’s his acting that irritates me whenever I watch it.
Anyway, on with the movie.
This film is in my list of movies to watch out for in 2012. Sadly, the date it was set to come out was December 25, 2012. All Filipinos are aware of this, that come December 25, cinemas all over the country can only feature films that are participating in the Metro Manila Film Festival. This usually lasts until the second week of January–which practically meant that I had to wait until January 16, 2013 to be able to watch it. Worse, since it was a Wednesday, I couldn’t catch it because of work the following day.
But hey, I guess you can call me a fangirl because I ended up watching the film 3 times. Yes, darlings. 3 times. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I don’t do this for any film so even I was surprised that I had been willing to spend that much to watch a movie.
I can’t call myself a critique or expert or whatever (I can’t even carry a tune) but here’s what I think of the film:
First, I did not cry my eyes out. I don’t know if this is because I was in the cinema with friends or because the film really doesn’t touch me as much as the musical does. I got a bit teary-eyed but that’s about it.
I really like the production–the setting, the costumes and the fact that the cameramen were made to wear period costumes as well just in case they got caught by another cameraman.
One thing I admire them for is that the actors did not try to be as musically talented as those in theater. You see, people keep comparing the film to the live version that they forget how vastly different the two kinds of productions are. I like how the actors blended their acting to their singing although yeah, I do long for better vocals at times.
What I don’t like about the film is that they used way too much close up shots. The first time I saw the movie, I was seated at the front row, suffering from having to look at the pores on the faces of the actors whenever there was a close up shot. I did not appreciate it. Another thing was the shaky camera. It’s good for some parts but in others, it made me dizzy. Kind of like what happened when I watched The Hunger Games.
Now for the cast.
I have a love-hate relationship with Hugh Jackman as Valjean. I really liked him in the Epilogue (that was the most touching part of the movie) and in some parts like his interaction with the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) but sometimes, he sounded weird to me. He goes from high-pitched to low-pitched that if not for the distinct sound of his voice, it would have been difficult to recognize his singing. I also didn’t like his Bring Him Home. =|
Russell Crowe. He didn’t sound too bad and his acting was not entirely bad either. But he lacked something (or a lot) to be Javert. I didn’t really see the obsession, despair, fierceness, and righteousness that I know Javert to have. I don’t know.
Anne Hathaway as Fantine. She’s good. I mean really good but as much as I find her I Dreamed A Dream devastating, I also find it too raw with emotions that it became overwhelming. The blending of music and acting was not in proportion. The acting overpowered the singing that it no longer sounded beautiful to my ears. Kinda like, if she wanted to show emotions and all that, she shouldn’t have sang the part and acted it out instead (which practically ruined the purpose of the musical film so don’t bother with me anymore). My opinion. I found her voice angelic during the Epilogue though.
The last part really is the best part of the film.
The Thenardiers. They’re the movie’s comic relief and I think Sacha Baron Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter (goodness, their names are long) did a pretty good job. ‘Master of the House’ is very entertaining in the movie.
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. She does look the part and her voice really does sound vulnerable and soft and pretty much feminine. Her voice is a good complement to that of Eddie Redmayne’s so I guess she’s fine.
Eddie Redmayne did great as Marius (especially compared to Nick Jonas but yeah, let’s stop comparing). I am particularly impressed of his Empty Chairs and Empty Tables as well as his duet with Amanda in A Heart Full of Love. And he’s good at being dense (no sign at all that he ever noticed Eponine).
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras. The thing is, he must have been really good in his role (and he’s actually cute!) but I was rather distracted by Killian Donnelly (Combeferre in the movie) who was almost always in the same frame as Aaron. On what I’ve seen of him, I think he did well as a leader for the group of students. But well…yeah, I don’t think I have the right to say anything about Aaron’s performance. Sorry!
I like Samantha Barks’ Eponine in the film more than her performance in the 25th Anniversary at West End. Her singing sounded more beautiful and I felt her On My Own better this time around. Given her background, I think it’s pretty much obvious that she’ll have the best singing performance among the main characters. And as usual, people who can relate to her situation reacted quite a lot whenever her unrequited love was highlighted by the cameras. The gasps and the sighs and the awws. As expected of the Patron Saint of the Friendzoned.
I also really liked the performance of the child actors in the movie. Young Cosette and Eponine took on their roles well but the one I loved most was Daniel Huttlestone’s Gavroche. He was spunky and witty and brave, just like a street urchin. His death scene was heartbreaking especially upon seeing Courfeyrac’s (Fra Fee) reaction. I still want to cry about that.
One of the things I am rather fond of doing while watching the film for the first time was spotting West End actors (at least those I know of). Killian was my favorite to look at if that much wasn’t obvious yet. I love that I found Gina Beck (my fave Christine Daae) as well but her screen time was too short so I had to be satisfied with Killian. Of course, the appearance of Colm Wilkinson, the original West End/Broadway Jean Valjean, as well as the original Eponine, Frances Ruffelle, made the film more endearing.
There are still quite a number of things I want to say about the Les Miserables film but I’m going to cut it here ’cause I still have an appointment to the barricades. Nevertheless, you’ll find me watching the film again. This time, alone just to find out if it will make a difference to my eyes.