“Les Miserables” 2 hrs 37 minutes Director Tom Hooper
As soon as I returned from my East Coast holiday I charged over to see the latest movie adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables. I have seen it five times prior at a variety of theaters, including one in Paris twenty-five years ago. The French generally, at least at that time, did not like musical theater, and it closed in ten days. Imagine, a Victor Hugo story about the French Revolution closing so quickly in Paris! Americans have not tended to embrace musical films, either. Even Phantom of the Opera was not a financial success so it must have been very speculative for the investors of Les Mis to consider this expensive production.
The investment in Hugh Jackman who brilliantly plays Jean Valjean, was a life-saving decision. Jackman holds it all together. Both his enormous singing and acting talent should win him an Oscar nomination. Yet he was snubbed by the Oscars! Anne Hathaway does a verycreditable job in her role and will probably be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award. One of the scenes I did not care for was the portrait of the prostitutes. There was a Quentin Tarantino-esque about them, with overdone makeup that made them look like clowns. The rest of the cast disappointed me. Russell Crowe can certainly hold a key and is normally a fine actor. He just didn’t live up to the tremendous potential of dramatic range that the role begged for. While the story takes place over some thirty years, Crowe never ages, which I thought strange. Eddie Redmayne as Marius just didn’t stir my heartstrings. Would a young, pretty girl fall madly in love at first sight with this Marius, who had a rather effeminate manner? I don’t think so. Other than his one solo the day after his friends are killed, he lacked the acting caliber necessary to the role. Opportunities were lost in some of the scenes. The stage production had the ghosts of Marius’ friends at the tavern as he mourned them, a very haunting and profoundly touching scenario, more effective than the movie version in this particular production. Pretty Amanda Seyfried did not seem to embrace the dramaticpotential of her role, either. She reminded me of the young, lead actress in Phantom who did the same thing: she could sing well and was quite beautiful, but she was robotic in her role, which detracted from the drama of the film. Samantha Barks as Eponine is a talented singer but she, too, held back to the very last moment. And the actor who played the little boy should have had a French accent instead of a cockney accent; even though it is a British film it takes place in Paris.
I also thought the very final moment of Jean Valjean was a disappointment as his ghost looks out over Paris and the scenes from the Revolution.
Still, it is such a strong story about the battle between good and evil. The lyrics written by Herbert Kretzmer are gorgeous and will leave you humming them for some time. With Jackman and Hathaway, it is worth seeing. ★★★★
They carry the movie. Had their support cast been stronger I would have given it that 5-star rating the story itself deserved.