Published on April 19th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie0
Les Miserables Film Review: A Masterful Performance That Redefines Film Musicals
Les Miserables Film Review
Director: Tom Hooper.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russel Crowe.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Les Miserables film review.
Les Miserables brings the musical to life with a superb amalgam of excellent set design, visual effects and performances from an formidable cast. With rousing renditions and a grimy aesthetic that foils the sweetness of the dulcet tones Les Miserables is a lesson in balance.
It is the early 19th century and the French Revolution is a distant memory to the citizens of France. Jean Valjean finds himself doing hard labour as a criminal convicted for stealing food. Breaking the conditions of his parole after being released, he gradually puts his life back together and becomes a successful businessman and town mayor.
Years later someone else is arrested having been mistaken for Valjean. Unable to have this on his conscience he decides to give himself up to the authorities.
While he is waiting to be arrested, Valjean visits his former employee who is dying. Fantaine’s condition has greatly deteriorated and while on her death-throes he agrees to her wish to look after her daughter, Cosette.
Valjean seeks to fulfil his promise and escapes from the clutches of police official, Javert. He brings up Cosette amidst the backdrop of an ever-building second revolution but finds that he cannot escape his past.
Hugh Jackman is one of the film’s stand-out performers. He possesses not only the emotional heft, as he portrays the character of Jean Valjean going through tumultuous events, but also an excellent singing voice. Easily the most complex character in the film, Jean Valjean shows us not only the redemptive side of man but also the cruel, indifferent authoritarian world of France’s past.
‘Her Fantine puts the viewer through the wringer as we vicariously experience her anguish and sorrow.’
Valjean is a man who constantly lives in fear knowing that despite all the good he has achieved his freedom can be taken at once. Jackman succeeds in highlighting all of the trauma Valjean is living through with a nuanced and carefully varied display of acting.
Anne Hathaway is another actor who lights up the film with her presence. Her Fantine puts the viewer through the wringer as we vicariously experience her anguish and sorrow. Hathaway’s songs are less about perfect-pitch and voice control but rather are an outlet for Fantaine’s pain and suffering.
When Hathaway’s character, similarly to Valjean, is on screen the film is at its most powerful – off it and it just doesn’t have the same resonance.
Javert is an extreme example of fundamentalism. Less a character than a force of nature everything to him is a case of black and white. Good or bad. You are either in one category or the other. This makes Javert incredibly dangerous for Valjean as he is hell-bent on capturing his prey.
Russell Crowe’s Javert is the let-down of the film. Though Crowe performs well on the acting front, he just cannot sing – at all. This is given special prominence by the fact that everyone else is a good singer. It also reflects badly on the director and casting agent who should have selected someone else for the role.
‘Their comical nature also brings much needed levity into what would otherwise be vile, pathetic human beings.’
Providing the comic sparkle is the duo of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the couple Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier. It is the Thenardiers who raised Cosette while Fantaine was unable to look after her. Both actors deliver their lines with perfect timing and help to offer respite from the gravity that characterises much of Les Miserables. Their comical nature also brings much needed levity into what would otherwise be vile, pathetic human beings.
Samatha Barks’s Eponine provides some joyous singing to the ears of the viewer. A lesson in unrequited love, Eponine is caught semi-permanently between her all-consuming love for Marius, which wishes him happiness, and her jealously towards Cossette. Although Barks’s singing talents are unquestionable her acting lacks the subtlety of the other performers and slightly betray her stage background.
‘Though in one particular scene she is staring at Jean Valjean so intently you can’t help but draw comparisons to amateur musicals.
Eddie Redmayne’s Marius matches a wonderful tenor voice with a subtle, nuanced portrayal. Cosette’s love interest, Marius is also part of the resistance movement that seeks the overthrow of the King’s forces and obtain true freedom for the people of France.
Amanda Seyfried gives a lively and endearing performance as the ingenue, Cossette. Seyfried sings her parts well and gives the character a charming likeability. Though in one particular scene she is staring at Jean Valjean so intently you can’t help but draw comparisons to amateur musicals. However, this may have been the fault of the director.
Those with a discerning eye may notice the cameo appearance of Colm Wilkinson who played the role of Jean Valjean in the original musical. Wilkinson, despite his brief screen-time, delivers an eye-catching performance.
Les Miserables brings a gritty determinism and realism that at times is at odds with the fact that the characters are singing. Nevertheless, when the entire context is viewed the unusual mix adds an extra pallet of colour aiding the sensuality of the film. The immediacy of the filmic medium means the movie excels at making an emotional connection with the viewer.
In Les Miserables all of the notes that make a great film combine to give the audience a spectacular treat. One or two slight adjustments and the movie would undoubtedly be a flawless masterpiece.
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