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Review: Les Misérables

December 24, 2012

les_miserables_ver3Les Misérables

  • Starring:  Hugh Jackman (The Prestige), Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada), Russell Crowe (Master & Commander) and more.
  • Directed by: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
  • Synopsis: 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.
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

This classic musical, a story of redemption, is so beautifully told once again by Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper. Before I go into my review, let me share with you a couple of things:

1. Once I learned about Les Misérables coming to theaters, I realized I had never seen any version of the story before, nor had I read it! So, I decided at that point in time to let THIS movie be the FIRST introduction to Les Misérables for me.

2. Director Tom Hooper gave a fantastic 9-min interview about the film on NPR last week that I listened to. It’s really worth checking out and you can listen to it in its entirety here.

The following are my thoughts on this great tale from the perspective of someone who just finished watching the story for the very first time (might I add, I’m glad that it could be THIS 2 hour and 29 minute version that introduced me to the beauty that is Les Misérables!)Les-Miserables-2012-Wallpapers-les-miserables-2012-movie-32697306-1280-800

Director Tom Hooper very beautifully portrays 19th century France and sets the stage from the beginning. As the story unfolds, which takes place amid revolution and unrest among the people of France, the journey of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman) is one that binds itself to the viewer as he fights to find meaning and redemption in his life. Hooper combines fantastic camerawork (he provides several countless closeups capturing the emotion and tone of the characters and their plights) with moving music and an impressive cast in this timeless and beautiful Victor Hugo novel brought to film.

Broadway lover/performer Hugh Jackman leads the musical members of the cast as we follow his character’s search for redemption. But it is not he alone who gives a memorable performance. (And that, I think, is definitely an appropriate word to describe each of the performances in this film: “memorable.”) Anne Hathaway’s moving performance as Fantine, the forlorn mother who finds herself lower than she ever thought she’d go, will undoubtedly move many to tears. I almost cried myself. (I suspect she will receive an Oscar nod in this upcoming award season.)anne-hathaway-les-miserables-trailer The rest of the cast also impresses with the likes of Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen (in a role I actually appreciate him in as opposed to Borat, The Dictator, etc) Helena Bonham Carter, Isabelle Allen, newcomer Samantha Barks and more. Bravo to Hooper for acquiring a flawless cast to tell this gripping human story.

It is a musical. I think it is important to point this obvious aspect out, because some people who go may appreciate the venue of storytelling but also find themselves losing interest as the songs continue. As opposed to most musicals where dialogue and story are both interrupted by timely parenthetical songs that tend to transport the audience out of the story temporarily and then end and it’s “life as normal,” Hooper chooses to create a world in which conversations through song is the main manner of human communication and where the spoken word serves as the “interruption” if you will. Les Misérables contains very little dialogue which keeps the audience in the attitude of the story, but can also be a little offsetting to some who do not frequent musicals or are not fans of the genre in general. I found it to be beautiful, though listening to a couple of lines sung here and there did make me chuckle.

les-miserables-trailer-ukThe cast and crew went through so much to make this film. From weightloss to unseemly haircuts to hours of vocal training/practice, the work they did pays off and makes Les Misérables a very wonderful film. The “live singing” adds a whole other element that brings the dramatic situations to life and makes the emotion alive. Learn all about that in this amazing featurette here: 

Themes of redemption, triumph, the human spirit, loss, self-worth/righteousness and more permeate the tale and therewith give it something for everyone to relate to. Each character represents some aspect of humanity and the trials faced in life. Hooper excels in making the characters of the novel “real” to the audience through his direction.Les Miserables

However, is it “Best Picture” worthy though? I don’t believe so. Though the performances are strong, some are a bit over the top making the film fluctuate between seeming like a film production and a play/broadway production (if that makes any sense at all). It’s a small complaint, I know, but it doesn’t fully commit to either. Truthfully, I was moved more by the trailer than by any single performance in the actual film.

Still…tumblr_m45gcq4ddi1r2rdl8o1_500

It is definitely a film that I enjoyed and loved. I understand all the love for this story and why it received standing ovations in its first few showings in the nation. I applaud the cast and crew in their fantastic work of making revolutionist France alive. Though I went in with great expectations, it only barely did not meet them. Go see Les Misérables on Christmas Day. 

Score:  4 out of 5 stars for Les Misérables (or perhaps a 4.24601 out of 5…some of you will get that reference!) 🙂

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Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

(this post is dedicated to my kid sister, Taylor, who has been so excited to see it. I love you, Taylor.)

T, The Focused Filmographer

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2012 11:00 am

    Really looking forward to this, glad it’s not a complete bomb. Great review T.

    Like

    • December 25, 2012 9:53 pm

      Thank you, my friend. I hope you enjoy the movie. I think you will

      Like

  2. December 24, 2012 11:19 pm

    Good stuff! You have me so excited to see this!

    Like

    • December 25, 2012 11:35 am

      I hope you enjoy it Keith. I really did. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  3. December 25, 2012 8:39 am

    Glad you enjoyed this one, as I can’t wait to see it. I think Anne is not only getting nominated, she is going to win for this. Fantine is such an incredible character to portray and having listened to the film’s soundtrack, Anne’s singing is just heartbreaking. I fear I won’t love the movie though, I think Seyfried and Redmayne are miscasts and I’m not a fan of either of them.

    Like

    • December 25, 2012 11:37 am

      I actually liked Redmayne and Seyfried’s casting myself but I can see perhaps where it might annoy some. At least perhaps Seyfried. I think Anne may win during this year’s award season, but it will be interesting seeing she is not in this movie as much as what would be expected. But…there’s no time limit I guess.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Like

  4. December 26, 2012 10:01 am

    Good review.
    I’m probably going to wait to see Les Miserables when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray as I have not one friend or relative who appreciates musicals in the least (and I have yet to muster the courage to go to the theater by myself). Having said that, I often approach these kind of films with restrain as I’m not the biggest fan of the genre and most of them tend to bore me. Having said that, it looks like this is one of the worthy ones and the whole “live singing” they have been making a big deal about could definitely end up enhancing the value of the film for me.

    PS. I’m back to blogging regularly after a long period of inactivity due to academia. I’d love to get back to sharing our thoughts on film from here on.

    Like

    • December 27, 2012 12:15 am

      Niels!
      So great to see you back. How were things on the academia front? I so look forward to seeing what’s new on your page. (I have been so SUPER busy with retail work during this holiday season and have much catching up to do on everyone’s pages myself.)

      I will be anxious to see your thoughts on Les Mis when you finally get around to it. If the genre is not your fave then you may have a tough time getting through it come the 3rd act, but all in all, I really appreciated the live singing.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  5. December 26, 2012 11:20 am

    “As opposed to most musicals where dialogue and story are both interrupted by timely parenthetical songs that tend to transport the audience out of the story temporarily and then end and it’s “life as normal,” Hooper chooses to create a world in which conversations through song is the main manner of human communication and where the spoken word serves as the “interruption” if you will.”

    Thaaaaaaat’s what I wanted to say in my review, DAMMIT! LOL. I just wrote… “They wouldnt stop &%$*ing Singing!” LOL 😀 😮

    Heh. Just kidding. It was alright. It was too long, I didnt like how they kicked Valjean’s story to the curb in the third act in favor of the stupid revolution, and I definitely missed the “timely parenthetical songs”. DEFINITELY. LOL.

    Thought it was decent. Jackman and Hathaway though… good lord, how awesome!

    Like

    • December 27, 2012 12:16 am

      you said it, man. Jackman and Hathaway were amazing. and like you stated in your review, I can’t fathom them being snubbed at the Oscars myself.

      It was interesting seeing the Valjean story take a back seat. I wonder if it takes that much of a back seat in the 3rd act in other editions. I must investigate! 🙂

      Like

  6. December 26, 2012 1:47 pm

    I have to watch this with the family when it comes out in the UK, on scale of 1-10 how sad is it?

    Like

    • December 27, 2012 12:18 am

      on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the “End of Marley and Me” sad I would say that it is a 9 at parts and averages out at a 7.

      Like

      • December 27, 2012 9:27 am

        Oh yippy, I cant wait…for that 😦
        Are there at least lots of fights to break it up a bit?

        Like

      • December 29, 2012 9:30 am

        Several fights, but perhaps less than there should have been in the first 2 acts and then too many than should have been in the 3rd.

        Like

  7. January 6, 2013 12:42 am

    I thought Hooper did an amazing job with material that is difficult to adapt. Enjoyed reading your review! I also was quite positive in my write-up.

    Like

    • January 6, 2013 9:27 pm

      Thanks so much for reading. He did do a good job putting it together. A nice take on the film.

      Like

  8. January 19, 2013 5:04 am

    I really loved Les Miserables, it moved me in a way that no film has before and I am not surprised to hear reports that it has reduced so many people to tears with it’s strong themes and emotionally charged story. Great review too!

    Like

    • January 21, 2013 7:03 am

      Thanks man. Yes it is easy to see how people can be moved by this one. such a beautiful story.

      Like

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