Les Miserables is a great film. I have unfortunately never seen the live musical but after watching this movie, its on my to do list for the New Year. The effects and staging are as grand as they need to be for a musical of this caliber, the acting and singing are well done, and of course the plot is good as it is based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo of the same name.
Plot: The plot for Les Miserables is fairly well known, and is fairly straightforward. A man, Jean Valjean, is condemned to jail for stealing bread for his sister’s son. Jean serves his 19 years in prison, and tries to make a decent new life for himself only to find that no one will give a man on parole a chance. He breaks his parole to become a new man with a new life. Throughout his life, Jean Valjean is constantly pursued by an officer of the law, Javert. Javert sees the world in a black and white and thinks a life within the law is the only life of redemption. He is determined to bring this dangerous man to justice. Along his flight, Jean decides to take in the daughter of a woman that he inadvertently wronged, and this changes his life. Jean’s flight brings him to the city of Paris during the revolution of 1832. Will Jean escape Javert? Can he make a new life with his adopted daughter, and will they survive the revolution? You will have to watch the film to find out.
There were several things about the musical that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed the music especially the fact that they sang as they acted. Usually for musicals they record the music in the studio first, and then lip sync while they act the scenes. This however doesn’t leave any room for interpretation or spontaneity during filming process. Recording the singing as they acted allowed the actors to fit the song to their acting or situation. This seemed to give the music and acting more emotion and made them more in sync. I am sure it was a difficult task to complete but the end result was well worth it. It really added to the depth of the characters and the depth of the film.
I liked the look of the film. For me, the characters and environment looked the way I envisioned they would. There is some wonderful staging, and moments that reminded of watching a live musical. There are no really flashy effects just some well-done cinematography.
I also thought that the acting and singing was on the most part well done. Hugh Jackman was great as Jean Valjean. He showed all the emotions of that character through his facial expressions and his singing. Hugh Jackman is an excellent singer/performer. Hugh has done live musicals on stage before, and that experience really shines through in this film. He makes Jean a believable and sympathic character. Russell Crowe plays, Javert, the cop who only sees right and wrong. He thinks since Jean stole once, that Jean is a dangerous man who deserves to stay locked up. I think that Russell Crowe does a good job acting in this role but I found his musical performance a little lack luster. For me, his voice just wasn’t good enough for the two solitary performances that this character has. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but just not as strong as it could have been which would have given the character the little extra depth that it needed. Anne Hathaway plays Fantine who is the mother to Cosette. Fantine is a victim of circumstance. One thing leads to another and she ends up on the streets. I was a little skeptical of Hathaway in a musical, but she did a fabulous job. You can hear the pain in her voice and she does well in her treatment of “I Dreamed a Dream.” The song has a lot of emotion in it and your can feel in it her voice. Her acting was also very well done. She also gave us a very believable and sympathic character. Amanda Seyfried is a perfect Cosette. We already know she can sing from Mamma Mia!, and she has that perfect look of trust, innocence, and love. Cosette is rescued by Jean Valjean from the innkeepers that been keeping her for Fantaine. The Innkeepers had been using her as a little slave. Jean then gives her everything she could want in life until she meets Marius and falls in love. Seyfried does a good job in the role, and makes us want to cherish love between her and Marius in that revolutionary world. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the innkeeper and Helena Bonham Carter plays his wife. They did perfect in the acting portion of the role (I wouldn’t want to stay at that inn), but if I never hear Sacha sing again it will be none too soon. I really think there could have been a better choice musically. Eddie Redmayne is Cosette’s love interest, Marius. Marius is a rich kid who has working class friends who see the wrong in the social and economical divisions in France. They want to start a revolution to change the common man’s plight. Marius is with them in the beginning even thought he is of noble birth, but once he meets Cosette he starts having second thoughts, perhaps it would be better to live and love Cosette then die for his friends ideals. I thought that Redmayne did a great job, both acting and singing in this role. Samantha Barks plays Eponine, the daughter of the innkeepers. She is in love with Marius. Marius only sees her as a friend even though she would do anything to for him. Samantha Barks is really good in this role. Her version of “On My Own” will grab your heart and twist it. Incidentally, Samantha beat out Taylor Swift for the role (for which I am eternally grateful), and actually played Eponine in the West End live version of the musical. I thought it was cool that at least one actor/actress from the live version got to play in the film.
Overall, I loved this film and wouldn’t mind seeing it again on the theater even though it is over two and half hours. The plot is good, the singing is good for the most part, and the acting is great. It is a wonderful musical film, and if you even remotely like musicals then I encourage you to see it. I will be adding this movie to my personal collection.