Les Misérables (2012)
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Hooper's idea to have the actors sing live really brings a deeper emotion to the film not seen in other movie musicals. Hugh Jackman is absolutely incredible as Jean Valjean and carries the film with spectacular grace. Anne Hathaway is magnificent in her fleeting role as Fantine - the film's sequence in which she goes on a downward spiral is one of the it's best moments, and her ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE HEARTFELT rendition of 'I Dreamed A Dream' will win her the Oscar by itself.
Also, a great supporting turn from newcomer Samantha Barks as the heartbroken Eponine (look out for her waist - it's absolutely tiny!), who is sure to be shot into stardom. Eddie Redmayne, Russell Crowe and Aaron Tveit are also good, and there's some great comedy relief from Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.
It will leave you laughing, crying, and feeling inspired. A great watch, sure to win some major awards this year! 10/10!
The cgi was not the best, but it kind of created this fantastical other world while still being realistic and grounded.
So many of the acting choices were brilliant and subtle. For example Jackman ever so slightly altered his voice with his characters aging, which I thought was brilliant.
There is no negative thing to say about this movie. However, I do see why a critic may not like it. It's not a critic movie. There isn't a lot of impressive violence, crazy camera shots, etc. the things critics seem to love. It's more grounded in the performances and the story, which it tells extremely well.
The only thing I can point out (because I saw it with my boyfriend who knows nothing about the story) there are two or three slightly confusing plots for those who aren't familiar with Les Mis. But they are either explained later on or not important enough to dwell on.
Anyways, that's my rant. Needless to say I will be seeing it many many times and cannot wait for the DVD so I can own it and watch it even more.
The Work Song is set to the image of a hundred convicts battling a stormy sea to pull a listing ship into dry dock—and only here does the film's live-recording ethic fall short, as the music and voices lack the power to match the imagery, seemingly washed out by the sea noise, where the live musical would normally captivate from the first note.
Neither of them theatrical belters, Jackman and Crowe's performances feel subdued in the opening scene. But the film finds its gravitas the instant Colm Wilkinson appears as the Bishop of Digne, and from that instant, the next two and a half hours are nothing less than the repeated sliding of the viewer's soul up and down a finely-honed blade.
The ability to take close-ups gives the film an intimacy that is unattainable on a Broadway stage, and power numbers are sometimes reduced to a chilling whisper. Anne Hathaway destroys herself to bring Fantine to life, and her incredible, personal pain washes in waves from the screen. The tooth removal, normally excised from the musical, is even back from the book—though modified in location. Confrontation is then viscerally set as a full-on close-quarters sword fight.
Film also allows a depth of scale that challenges the stage. The transition to At the End of the Day is a grim and powerful scramble through the slums of Paris, shaking the screen with the palpable rage of a nation. Look Down is another tour de force, while Do You Hear the People Sing emerges from a quiet, elegiac call to arms that organically overtakes General Lamarque's funeral procession.
Samantha Barks' Éponine lights up in her every interaction with Marius, and shots of her in the background of A Heart Full of Love are soul-rending. But she suffers just enough tiny cuts that A Little Fall of Rain is not quite as arresting as it should be, and the constant close-ups amputate the power of a scene that should captivate not only through its intimacy, but through the inactivity that washes across the entirety of a once-violent stage.
Russel Crowe's soft-voiced Javert takes some getting used to, and while it works more often than one might expect, he sometimes seems to be singing with a sock in his mouth—most notably during One Day More, where he seems to have been mixed in at a different volume level from the rest of the cast. Yet the cinematography of Stars is simple yet stunning, and Javert's Suicide suffers nothing in this interpretation.
M. Thénardier endures a few cuts (most notably the truncation of Dog Eats Dog), but Sacha Baron Cohen steals enough asides and chews enough scenery that his part hardly feels reduced.
The background has been filled in with elements from the novel, and those who have read Hugo's epic will appreciate nods to Fauchelevent and the Petit-Picpus convent, Gavroche's elephant-home, Marius' grandfather, and the tavern behind the barricade. There is even a quick cut to Gavroche when Éponine is shot, winking at their normally undisclosed sibling relationship.
Even the finale remains perfectly and satisfyingly intact. The only challenge with a film that so precisely parallels its stage inspiration is resisting the necessity to deliver a standing ovation once the final note has been sung. If only they had found a way to incorporate a curtain call.
The showing was introduced by producer Eric Fellner of Working Title who underlined the commercial challenge of making a film in which all the dialogue is sung and the themes are so political and praised director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") for his insistence that every take was sung live.
The two main characters are presented in the opening seconds of a sweeping introductory sequence: the police inspector Javert (Crowe) and the prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean (Jackman) in post-revolutionary France. There follows over two and half hours with barely a spoken word which will not appeal to all cinema-goers, but the production is a triumph with Cameron Mackintosh's musical opened up by dramatic shooting on Pinewood's brand new Richard Attenborough stage and some historic English locations.
If Crowe and especially Jackman are excellent, Hathaway - who lost 25 pounds and most of her hair for the role - is outstanding as the destitute Fantine and Cohen and Carter almost steal the show as the comical Thénardier innkeepers.
I'm not sure how long it will take for "Les Misérables" to recoup its investment cash- wise, but it's going to win award after award and rightly so.
Contrary to one of the reviews which canned everything about the movie from the plot to the actors' singing voices to camera angles (by someone who, to me, is obviously not familiar with the live theater productions of this musical nor it appears the he has ever been to any), I find this movie version is a a state-of-the-art capture of one the world's great musicals for the cinema screens!
The live singing is superb, showing the fragility (and flaws) of every performer ... and that's what a live-performance is all about! This movie captured a live theater production on screen for all cinema goers who never had the chance to enjoy a live theater production!
Kudos to everyone involved! A must-see for all! And a must-buy for those who wish to have a copy of this masterpiece for a keepsake!
Singing: Everybody was great! Russell Crowe was not PHENOMENAL, but was excellent in "Stars" and "Javert's Soliloquy". Hugh Jackman, too, had his weak moments...but really wowed during "Who am I?" and "Bring Him Home". Anne Hathaway gave the best vocal performance, followed closely by Samantha Barks.
Acting: A fantastic performance from the whole ensemble. Again, Anne Hathaway blew everybody else out of the water. Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were also excellent in terms of emotional delivery. And Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen were the much needed (and absolutely hilarious) comedic relief.
Production: One of the best period films I've seen. The costuming, makeup, hair and set design were impeccable. I really liked how people weren't made to be "pretty" as Hollywood often does; thankfully, the actors' teeth were not left movie-star white.
Overall, one of the best movies I've seen. I cried at least 10 times through the whole film, and the finale completely RUINED me. I was sobbing a full 15 minutes after the movie ended, walking through the theatre and out to the car.
Highly recommended for everyone!
First the positives. There are some very strong performances here.
- Anne Hathaway's performance has already drawn critical acclaim, so I won't dwell on it, except to say that the acclaim is well deserved.
- Hugh Jackman's voice tone and interpretation of Jean Valjean is quite different from anyone before, and I found myself drawn deeply to this Jean Valjean, sympathizing with his every emotion. I thought he did a great job of switching between a rough gravelly tone to a more clean ringing falsetto depending on the emotions of the character. I do have a complaint about directorial cues on one of Jean Valjean's key numbers, but more on that below.
- Eddie Redmayne as Marius gives a great performance. For the stage productions, Marius has always been one of my least favorite characters, always lacking depth with what I perceived as just immature blind infatuation for Cosette as his only emotion. In this movie, Eddie really captured each moment: his love for Cosette in the moonlight garden scene, his determination and drive for revolution, his remorse and anguish during "Empty chairs at empty tables" (a real tour-de-force performance). I thought he was wonderful.
Also, the set/locations/scenery/costumes/make up really allow the audience to immerse into the story. I think this point is one of the greatest benefits a movie setting has over a stage production, and this movie delivers on this front. From the beautiful country settings, to the grime and grit of poverty in Montreuil and Paris, there is a strong sense of realism that you can't get in stage production (they did overdo it slightly in the sewer scene).
Now on to the negatives.
I have seen a few reviews complaining about the slow pace of the film. I thought the opposite. It felt kinda rushed. I know the stage production is 3 hours long, but I wish they hadn't sacrificed the story and proper delivery to save on run time for the movie. Some of the scene transitions are rather abrupt and leaves a sense of this being an ensemble of songs, rather than one flowing story. I'm not a purist in that I will complaint about every single change from the stage production, but some of the cuts and omissions really hurt the flow of the story and leaves some key characters and relationships woefully under-developed. Having said that, I do think one addition was brilliant: the scene with Jean Valjean singing to a sleeping Cosette in the carriage as they leave the Thenardier's inn. It really gives a great insight into the change that Jean Valjean goes through and the bond that he forms with Cosette.
Enjolras seems shuffled as a minor character, which is too bad as Aaron Tveit played the part with great passion when given the chance. Even though fleeting, Enjolras, Grantaire, and even Gavroche share some moments in the stage production that allows us to bond with these characters. I felt the movie marginalized each as their own without developing a bond between them.
Eponine also seemed to be under-developed. I can't quite place it. The individual performances were very strong, but "On my own" and "A little fall of rain" didn't quite have the same emotional impact that I thought it would. I think it was due to the lack of insight into the dynamic between Marius and Eponine. There was a lot of Eponine watching Marius fall in love with Cosette from a distance, but only one instance that I can remember of Marius unknowingly hurting Eponine during their interaction. I can think of 3 or 4 such occurrences in the stage production and really sympathizing with Eponine each time it happened. Again, subtle differences, but it really detracted from the overall story for me.
Also, I didn't care for Hugh Jackman's rendition of, and Tom Hooper's direction of "Bring him home". In the stage production, this song is very subdued with Jean Valjean singing in beautiful high falsetto while watching over a sleeping Marius. There is a beauty to its simpleness, and it is almost like a glimpse into Valjean's mind as he silently sends a prayer up to God. This movie's interpretations is much more... dynamic. Hugh Jackman delivers with a stronger force as Valjean nervously walks around the 2nd story of a building looking down on a sleeping Marius at the barricade. Certainly a very different interpretation, and it didn't work for me.
One last bit of negative was the casting of Russell Crowe as Javert. I am a fan of Russell Crowe, and while he is a great fit for the look and persona of Javert, I just did not feel he fit the vocal demands of the character. It prevented me from empathizing with Javert, my favorite character from the stage production.
With as much anticipation as I had going in, I'm afraid it was a bit of a disappointment. I really wanted to like this, but came away thinking of what could have been. Certainly a must see for all fans of the musical, but it is a shame that this movie will be the sole judgement of Les Mis for millions of viewers who may never have a chance to see the stage production.
If you can watch this film without crying, I don't want to know you. The woman behind me was on the edge of her seat, not just because I smell good. The audience at the 10:40 a.m. matinée – the theater was packed – applauded at the end, and was very slow to leave the theater, even as the closing credits rolled.
Typical of big, fat, nineteenth-century novels, there are numerous implausible coincidences that drive the plot. These coincidences took me out of the movie, but that was a good thing. The human suffering on screen was overwhelming: suicide, enslavement, exploitation of living humans' body parts, prostitution, disease, spite, malice, child abuse, starvation, sadism, a dying man escaping through very graphic sewerage. I did have to repeat to myself, "This is only a movie" even as tears streamed down my cheeks.
Jean Valjean is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving children. He slaves for twenty years. He hauls a massive, capsized sailing ship. The scene does look like obviously fake CGI, but that doesn't make it any less gut wrenching. The workers sing, "You'll always be a slave. You are standing in your grave." They are the men we see in Sebastiao Salgado photographs of Third World laborers. They are Ilya Repin's "Barge Haulers on the Volga." Valjean's nemesis is the crazily obsessive policeman, Javert. They spar throughout the film, as Valjean's fate rises and falls and rises and falls and rises you get the idea.
A story this big, this broad, and this implausible requires one hundred percent commitment from the performers. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean is superb. He believes. He emotes. He is as big as the story itself. Jackman is the heart and soul of "Les Miserables." I loved him. Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen – they all had me convinced. Russell Crowe was a surprising disappointment. He's a brilliant actor and I kept waiting for him to bring some fire, some ice, some power, some insight to Javert, the obsessive and punitive policeman who mercilessly hounds Jean Valjean. I wanted a memorable moment that would make me feel that Crowe's performance brought Javert to intimate life for me. That moment did not arrive.
I wondered while watching this movie whether it will be embraced by the political left or the political right. It is a deeply and unashamedly Christian film. A Catholic priest, emulating Jesus, is the catalyst. Valjean spends the rest of the film working to live up to the priest's Biblical example. "Les Miserable" is leftist in that it depicts the poor rising up, but then the poor fail their own putative saviors, and allow them to be massacred, alone. Javert, representing law and order, is a monster. The film's brief glimpse of heaven is like some limousine liberal's fantasy.
I think "Les Miserables" is as popular as it is for the same reason that Cinderella is so popular. When "Les Miserable" was a stage play, tickets were a very expensive and difficult to acquire luxury. It is ironic that a play about the wretched of the earth would be such a luxury entertainment. Why do we enjoy watching people much poorer and more desperate than we will ever be? Why do we pay for the privilege? Because we all see ourselves in Cinderella, in Jean Valjean, no matter how lucky we are. I'll certainly never stand in cold sea water with iron shackles around my wrists and neck, overseen by a cold sadist like Javert. But, along with millions of others, I saw my own struggles in Valjean, and thanked God that I didn't have it as bad as he. If Jean Valjean can go on, I can, too!
I wish the songs had been a tad better. There are a couple of good ones, "I dreamed a dream" and "Do you hear the people sing?" All the actors sing very well. Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing especially well.
As far as the acting and music is concerned, I can find very little to fault. Russel Crowe was the weakest of the lot as I just didn't find his voice to be up to the task of singing some of Javert's songs (Stars immediately springs to mind). Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Samantha Barks were all especially good. The intense emotions their characters experience throughout the story are perfectly performed.
This naturally leads to a critique of the music. Anyone familiar with the Broadway show will undoubtedly find themselves joyously mouthing along to the familiar lyrics and might be surprised at a couple of brand new songs written specifically for the movie. Just as in the show, the music is brilliant and meshes wonderfully with the story.
One of the biggest treats, however, were the sets and special effects. The beauty and squalor of 19th century Paris was showcased magnificently and it really allowed you to become engrossed in story.
This is a movie that both fans of the novel as well as fans of the musical can both fall in love with, since even though there are some deviations from the novel this is still the closest a film version has ever come to being completely faithful to the book. Additionally, this movie is a perfect chance for those who have never read the book or haven't heard of or had a chance to see the Broadway show. I wholeheartedly recommend this film to everyone. My only warning is to limit your fluid intake, since at 2.5+ hours your chance of encountering an overflowing bladder is a very real danger.
But I enjoy musicals (both in the theatre and film versions) and I went with an open mind, and looking forward to seeing something a little different from the norm. Sadly, within the first few minutes, I knew I'd made a mistake, and this has become one of my most hated films of all time.
Indeed, I always rate films but rarely review them, but I just had to get this off my chest. Particularly because so many reviews seem to be gushing about its brilliance, and although I'm fully prepared to admit that my views are in the minority, I think it's important to air them if only in the interest of balance and representation.
It didn't take long to realise that every single word of the dialogue was to be 'sung'. I say 'sung' rather than sung, because it wasn't what I could really refer to as singing. Just because one woooooord of any given liiiiiine is extended like thiiiiiis, does not, in my mind, make it 'singing'. In fact, if it weren't for the extended words in nearly every sentence, the film would likely have been at least thirty minutes shorter.
The lack of spoken dialogue really detracted from many of the scenes. When even the most mundane of sentences has to be delivered in such a way, it becomes grating. I wouldn't have been at all surprised for someone to bellow out "pass the saaaaaalt". It was just awful.
And the repetition! I understand that chords and themes repeat throughout musicals, often linking similarities between scenes and concepts and characters. It isn't that I don't understand that. But this was too much. It was as though the same tones and flow were repeated every four lines. Every. Four. Lines. With the third or fourth wooooooords extended. Every. Single Time.
I'm getting wound up reliving the moment and I've waited till the following morning before doing this review in case my opinion mellowed.
And the duration of the film only served to make it worse. Occasionally the film would announce via on-screen text that it was now "8 years later", or whatever. And I felt as though I'd been there for that entire time. In fact, it felt like longer.
It became one of those films which leaves you feeling physically drained from the effort of battling through it. It was that bad. It felt like I've undergone a test of endurance and although I got through it, it wasn't without mental scarring!
Beyond the monotony, repetition and delivery, there was the story, which (perhaps as I had no prior knowledge of the source) was nonsensical. People falling in love within a single glance, which then goes on to motivate someone else to endure warfare to carry the person, half-dead? Chasing someone for what, 17 years, because of breaking parole for a loaf of bread, which itself warranted a previous 19 years of suffering? Only to then throw yourself to your death?
Am I meant to believe these characters? Am I meant to care about them?
Anne Hathaway's deterioration from factory worker to cropped and toothless prostitute was compacted into all of 42 seconds, so when it came to her performance of I Dreamed A Dream (which was a rare highlight in the film) its impact was stunted because why should we care about this woman? She's only just been introduced to us and we know nothing about her (presumably because everyoooooone is too busy singing like thiiiiiiiis instead of actually making us caaaaaaare).
Yet apparently Hugh Jackman cares so much about her that he then devotes his entire life to her child? It was mentioned at the very beginning that he has a sister and a nephew of his own, why not take care of them? Or were they dead (as he went to a cross in the ground after being paroled) but if that's the case it wasn't explained well.
A film should be able to stand on its own two feet and not require its audience to have read the book or seen the musical. The Harry Potter books far exceed the movies, yet people can enjoy the movies on their own merit. Not so with Les Mis.
And the casting was bizarre as well. I don't understand why the casting was given to Hollywood actors instead of singers. Borat? Really?? And accents were flying all over the place. Early in the film, when Hugh Jackman is in the church, he suddenly sounds as though he's stepped off the first boat from Ireland, and half of the cast of jumped straight out of a Mary Poppins chalk drawing!
I can't find a single redeeming feature to mention about this film. Miscast. Rubbish sets (most of it looking like obvious CGI). Repetitive 'singing'. No spoken dialogue. Nonsensical plot. Ridiculous pacing. No character development or involvement.
Beyond doubt one of the worst films I have ever watched, and I would sooner have my teeth extracted by a French street urchin than ever have to endure this horror again.
"Les Miserables" is a wonderful film. Right from the start, it captures every viewer's hearts. It makes three hours seem like ten minutes. It is so touching and so poignant that everyone in the cinema cried like a baby. Throughout the film, the sound of tissue packets opening and closing was a permanent addition to the soundtrack. For me, I just let my t shirt be drenched in tears, as if i have had a strenuous workout. I thought the Anna Hathaway soliloquy was already with the ticket price, but masterpiece scenes like that keep on coming. I was dehydrated from all the water I lost from tears by the end of the film.
It's amazing how the film can take us through every emotions there is. From the relentless struggle for existence, the the uplifting revolutionary spirit, the fatherly love and the encompassing integrity of Jean. Everything keeps emotions high, and love i find my tears literally in a freefall mode without even knowing why. "Les miserables" is a wonderful masterpiece, and is certainly one of the best films I have ever watched.
But if you're a fan of Les Miserables or musicals in general, then you're in for a treat.
Many people have criticized Tom Hooper's direction. For me, I just think these people have no idea what Hooper is doing, and do not realize the effects of his work (with the help of Danny Cohen's marvelous cinematography). The Dutch angles work very well, especially during the Lovely Ladies sequences -- Hooper skillfully created a surrealistic, nightmarish Paris for Fantine (and the audience), making us feel queasy and uncomfortable and horrified, in some ways, for Fantine. We have to realize that this is not a videotaped version of the stage play or concert. This is a movie. Hooper said that he wanted to create an extreme/heightened realism that is on the verge of being surrealistic. I for one applaud his choice and I think it works beautifully for the movie.
Same with the close-ups. They created the kind of intimacy you won't get on stage, and also provided the opportunities for the actors to do their work. The result is amazingly personal, intense. Obviously it works better for some actors than others (that's why we're thinking of giving Anne Hathaway the Oscar, not Amanda Seyfried), but over all, it's a great cinematic choice -- together with live recording... it's emotionally powerful.
I do have some gripes: certain hand-held camera shots could have been avoided or stabilized -- there is really no need for them. The barricade scenes can be somewhat chaotic and rushed. Unfortunately Hooper has to work in the confine of the musical structure, and the story is already almost 3 hours long. Also, they had to cut or shorten some songs to fit the time frame - to those who have seen the show 30 times, it could be unsettling.
The performances are excellent. Hugh Jackman carries most of the movie with dignity and amazing versatility. He may not be the best singer in the world to play Valjean, but he IS Valjean on screen -- his voice is characterized to fit Valjean perfectly. His "What Have I Done" is a revelation of what his song-and-dance man who is best known for Wolverine can do.
Anne Hathaway deserves all the accolades she is getting. Her "I Dream a Dream" will become the de facto performance for those who will play Fantine in the future.
Eddie Redmayne is a surprise -- I know the actor can act, but I had no idea that he could sing so well. And that he could sing and act at the same time with such grace and charm. It's not an easy thing to accomplish.
Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit have done Les Miserables on stage before, and they are excellent in the film. Many stage actors can't transition to the screen, but these two have succeeded (with a lot hard work, no doubt).
Amanda Seyfried is one of the weakest links in the movie. She is, of course, lovely as the adult Cosette (Isabelle Allen is excellent as young Cosette), even though the part is underwritten (in the film or on stage). Her singing voice is okay, but not as strong as expected, and I find her performance somewhat one dimensional. But she and Redmayne have great chemistry together, and that's a good thing.
Russell Crowe also is the weak link. He is a good actor and I think he does his best with this role. But his rock-opera voice is jarringly different from the rest and he just stands out like a sore thumb. However, in the course of the movie he grew on me. In his final scenes I can see the great acting (it's all in the eyes, people!). So while I can't say he's the best Javert ever, I'll give him a pass.
The supporting cast and background actors are all excellent.
The production is rich and wonderful with great sets, great cinematography, great costumes.
Is it perfect? No. I haven't seen one single film this year that is "perfect." I don't think that exists. At the end of the day (pun intended), Les Miserables is all about the music, the characters, and the emotions, and this film delivers. I expect many award nominations for this film.
It was really exciting, the actors sing better than I expected, and all the photography added to the musical perfectly complete it for an unforgettable experience.
I can't tell anything bad. Anne Hathaway is very good, as well as Sacha Baron Cohen or Hugh Jackman. The musical is fantastic. The movie: terrific!
The review by MouthyMatthew summarises it the best. Over the top. Chords and themes excruciatingly repetitive (How possibly wouldn't they be? I mean, every line in a 159 minute movie has been "sung", down to the most banal mundane statement you can imagine.). The movie successfully drains your life energy as it progresses, since you have to employ a supernatural effort to stick with the characters' lines.
What would be a series of seemingly important storyline details ends up receiving a very cursory treatment. For instance, Fantine's tragic life trajectory. Furthermore, why on earth would they hire Hollywood bigshots with a singing talent of a sexually frustrated walrus to play these parts?? And the accents, oh, for the love of god. What the hell? Overall impression: laughably sappy (yet unconvincing) and above all insufferable.
In my humble opinion, I think people should not see this movie if they have not been exposed to the story earlier, by reading the book or seeing a good musical production of it. I truly hate that this will be my first impression of both the story and the characters, the one that I will always be stuck with.
In addition to being one of the most boring movies ever made, there is very little to like beside some sets and costumes, and the fact that Hugh Jackman can hold a note for almost a minute. Other than that, Hathaway overacts, Crowe looks disturbed most of the film and appears to be missing something. I can't even find words to describe the emotions I discovered with Helena and Sasha. They finally met their match. For years, these two have survived a few cinematic bombs, but this movie is the equivalent of the Black Plague... Very little is left standing.
With a camera that seems to be on some type of epileptic seizure, a very truncated story line, and one of the most incredibly unappealing and forgettable song scores of the last hundred years, it's hard to enjoy something that calls itself a musical, but doesn't quite have anything remotely close to a melody. For more than two hours, one hears something akin to the scratching of nails on a blackboard, and why does everyone wear so much rouge? A few years ago the director gathered some of the best British and Australian talent and won a Best Picture Oscar with a very weak film. This type the trick doesn't work because the material and the direction are outstandingly weak.
If the musical genre doesn't suffer a painful death after this, nothing will be able to kill it. If Jackman's character got 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread, I can't even imagine what a judge would give the producers and directors for creating this tuneless torture. Fantine was lucky to meet her maker in the first 20 minutes... We had to endure 2.5 hours of this horrible experience.
I do not know if my expectations are too high (being myself a musician) but I sort of think that what a musical is all about is singing. Acting is important, costumes can be nice and it does not hurt if the takes are nice too. However, hence the word MUSICal, it's all about music, and Les Miserables are simply miserable in this respect. The main two actors (Jackman and Craw) are undoubtedly very good actors but have no idea how to sing; They are incapable of singing a straight note and it is obvious that they never had any real lessons except probably at acting school (as usual with these cases a month's coaching before the shooting is not enough - all professional e.g. Broadway singers who suffer for years are not stupid, they do it for a reason). Had they not been famous, everyone would laugh.
Whoever does not believe me simply please buy the CD with some proper cast (for instance Michael Ball or Anthony Warlow).
If one can tolerate the insufferable singing, I admit that the rest is excellent. The acting is superb, the takes breathtaking, the costumes and sets fantastic, and the emotions overwhelming. If....
I take away five stars for the awful music and give full credit to the rest. However, music is in my opinion half the job, and in this case half a job very badly done.
Basically the story is about grace and how one man responds to grace. Many times I have heard pastors use this story to describe grace (and they namely refer to the scene where the bishop responds to Valjean's theft of the silverware with the statement that it was gift, and the only problem was that he left too early because he forgot to take the candle sticks). If it be only that scene that made this story stand out then that would be enough, but it goes much further because the whole theme of the story is about how Valjean responds to this act of grace in that he completely turns his life around and becomes a well respected citizen.
Still, believe it or not, there is even more. This story is almost Shakespearian in scope in that there are at least three or four plots intermeshed into the story (with the main plot being the redemption of Valjean). For instance, we have a love story, a story of self sacrifice, an exploration of the life of the peasant in early 19th century France, a failed revolution, and of course, the dogged pursuit of Valjean by his nemesis Javert.
I remember making a comment about Cohen on a facebook entry and a friend of mine responded by making a snide comment about Russell Crowe singing, and maybe that tarnished the film a bit, but after seeing it, I don't think Crowe did a bad job at all, and if fact I think he took up the challenge and succeeded with flying colours. In fact, by the end of the movie I had no problem with Russell Crowe playing a major role at all. As for Hugh 'Wolverine show us your claws' Jackman, well, we all know that he can sing and that he has starred in musicals previously, and as the main character, he was absolutely superb.
I've read many of the reviews posted on this site and firstly would like to clear up a few inaccuracies. We Americans are so insular, aren't we? We think it's a Hollywood movie based on a Broadway show set during the French Revolution. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Actually, it's a British production made in London based on the hit West End show (which later transferred to 42 countries - one of which was the USA). It's not even set during the French Revolution! European history isn't our thing, right? The storming of the Bastille, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette etc...that was the French Revolution and it happened in 1789....the rebellion/ uprising scenes in the movie are set during protests in the 1830s.
A reviewer bemoaned the fact that most people on screen sing/ speak in English/ cockney accents. Errrr....that's the way many of the locals in London talk. Someone else suggested they should have French accents. Oh puhleeeease.....where's the realism if everyone has phony accents that sound like Inspector Clouseau?! Street urchins using their genuine London accents sounds much more realistic.
OK, now for my review proper.
I loved the movie. Having seen the London stage production 3 times and listened to the CD hundreds of times I had high expectations. Anne Hathaway as Fantine steals the show - I Dreamed a Dream is one of the greatest tear-jerkers ever written, and she does it justice. WOW! Speechless. Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe....all great. Crowe's Javert is most convincing, and his singing isn't nearly as bad as I had expected after reviewing some critical reviews. Sets, costumes, sound, direction...all top notch.
The big disappointment is Sacha Saron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thennadiers....they just didn't tick the right boxes for me. Master of the House is a bit flat.
The overall movie experience is an emotional roller-coaster - if you don't shed a tear at the end you must have a heart of stone.
I felt the first thirty minutes or so were the strongest of the entire film, plunging us into the despair and conflicts of various characters with adroit narrative thrust so that not a moment feels wasted or redundant. Two of the three (in my opinion) gut-wrenching musical numbers come in this section- Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" (which, if I recall correctly, was filmed largely in a single take) and Hugh Jackman's "Who Am I?". I can only speculate but, compared to the stage version, being able to take in every facial nuance in the film version seems to make the moments of crescendo and soaring strings pack so much more of an emotional punch. Both Hathaway and Jackman also deliver top-notch performances, and it's hard to imagine anyone else fitting the role of Valjean as well as Jackman.
Thematically, the film also shines in this section. Here we are introduced to the major theme of forgiveness for the first time, through Fantine we tap into maternal bonds as well as disillusionment, and Valjean's struggles explore the conflict between not only public and private selves but also reconciling our own personal interests with what is morally correct.
It seemed curious to me that the bleakest moments of the film (at least for me) came at the beginning, which made it impossible for the film to regain that same sense of gravitas as the story progressed. While the remainder of the film was certainly entertaining, it felt both less emotionally involving and less taut than the beginning.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen provided some much appreciated comic relief, but their antics seemed oddly out of place in this film at times, and often left me feeling as though I were watching Sweeney Todd again. Russell Crowe, while certainly no vocal powerhouse, did a fine job as Javert, although I found his final number to be oddly anti-climactic. The younger actors gave fine performances as well, with Samantha Barks demonstrating the most potential and Eddie Redmayne surprisingly delivering the final gut-wrenching number, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." The thematic exploration of the rise and fall of idealism makes this sequence especially poignant.
Artistically, Les Miserables is a feast. The production design is top-notch, with meticulously crafted sets and props. Makeup and costumes are definitely noteworthy as well. Many of the shots of Paris have an artificially beautiful aesthetic to them, and every crane shot adds a sense of beauty and scope to the piece. Editorially, the film makes takes advantage of cuts to characters in different locations or concurrent events which would not have been possible in the stage version of Les Mis.
One minor complaint from a filmmaking perspective was cinematographer Danny Cohen's method of framing characters. Conventional cinematography typically frames actors so that their faces are demarcating either the left or right third of the screen, with the camera positioned so that their subjects are turned towards the remaining two thirds of the screen. In Les Miserables (though thankfully not to the same extent as in The King's Speech), a few times the characters are positioned so that they are facing the other direction- the edge of the screen. Though I imagine the filmmakers were attempting to add visual flourish to the film, I found this technique oddly jarring, drawing me out of the film and making me conscious I was watching a movie.
The film does regain some levity in its rousing finale, which ties the film together in plot, theme, and song. Despite the minor issues I had with the film, I found it to be a hard-hitting and rousing work of art. I could probably sum it up best by noting that this is the first movie I've been to where even old men were wiping their teary eyes by the time the credits rolled.
So I say that the feature film is surprisingly good, even if it seems strange at first.
In at least three moments in the story I really was prone to crying (Anne Hathaway simply destroys her role, even though she appears a little bit lightly) and this is something that does not happen often when I watch movies.
The plot brings a sad story that at the same time criticizes ancient times of humanity, but can also be understood as a parallel with the world today.
The actors are all incredibly good in their roles, both in acting and singing. Maybe my only problem with the film is its duration, in several moments I stopped to look at how much time was left to finish, not enough to be annoying, but if I had a half hour more it could be more easily accessible.
I suppose the most annoying item is the hand-held camera shoved up the actors' noses. This unfortunate choice simultaneously throws every performance into melodramatic overdrive while also insuring the audience a nauseatingly claustrophobic roller coaster ride inches from the casts' lens-distorted features.
Next up would have to be the uneven performances within the musical numbers. This is not a critique of the actors or their singing, but of the director's choice to not guide them toward performances scaled for the shots. There's a difference between belting out a musical show-tune to the back row or coming in on a close up to capture the moment which requires a quieter more internal thought. And if you're going to play those moments very wide or very close, hone the performance to suit the choice. Too often the performance is out of sync with the shot.
Next, focus. In today's world of monitors, DITs and playback, there is no excuse for so much of this film to be out of focus. I don't care if your depth of field is two millimeters. Go back and get it right or pump some more light on the subject and find a depth of field and lens your AC is comfortable with.
Then there are creative choices like playing Lovely Ladies strictly for the ugliness of the nineteenth century gutter it's set in and Master of the House with so little energy that not even SB Cohen can elevate it.
I am not sure what film all those ten star reviews on this IMDb page are for. I can only hope that they were written by people who loved the musical and lived in hope that the film would live up to its legacy, but haven't seen it yet.
As for me, I have seen it and am bitterly disappointed.
There are many problems here but the one that the rest stem from is direction. Tom Hooper has showed us before with the king's speech and now again with this that he has absolutely no intention of making films for the sake of film. This man wants to win Oscars and that is all. The movie spends way to much time showing off that these actors are actually singing the songs on set, which is awesome and all but you could be using that time to make the plot slightly more interesting or slightly less convoluted. The only time this movie reached anything above boring and uninteresting is when Anne Hathaway is on screen. And she's great and she deserved the Oscar but we all (who where aware of the story of les mis) knew that the role was going to win the actress best supporting no matter who it was or how good she played it.
I really wanted to like this film and I tried pretty hard but considering a movie this boring goes on for an unforgiving 160 minutes I just couldn't stop pleading for the movie to end. Sorry guys.
The other terrible thing was the closeups. A few would have been artistically interesting. Filming this thing so you could look at the adams apples of all the stars was strange and not very pleasant.
A bad filming of a great book and a great stage play. It made my cry too....just because it was so terrible.