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Old December 31st, 2012, 04:43 AM
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Default Les Misérables (2012)

Les Misérables (2012)
Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen. Directed by Tom Hooper.

I honestly don’t know how a film like Les Misérables will be received by people who aren’t already fans of the stage musical on which it is based. Every criticism or praise I’ve heard has been from someone who knows and loves the stage production, and it is that filter through which I viewed it myself. I suspect that director Tom Hooper had that in mind, in fact. If the only people he pleases with this film are the fans, that’s already a huge audience, and one that can appreciate his interpretation as he adapts it for this medium.

For the uninitiated, the story is set in the heart of the French Revolution. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), formerly a prisoner for stealing bread to give to a hungry child, has fled his parole, changed his identity, and dedicated his life to serving his fellow humans. He owns a factory and is the mayor of a town. He has done many things to atone for his first offenses, but the law says he is still a criminal, and an officer of the law, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), has sworn to find him and bring him to justice.

There are other plot elements involving Valjean and an adopted child, and that child’s eventual love interest, and it is all set against the personal tragedy of Valjean’s haunting past and his countrymen’s struggle to liberate themselves. The story is almost completely told in song, and this is where its strengths lie. The music is outstanding, and the songs’ performances in this adaptation are heartbreaking and beautiful. Anne Hathaway’s presentation of “I Dreamed a Dream” is almost guaranteed to slash through your heartstrings like a hatchet through a harp in one of the best musical performances I’ve ever seen in a film. Hathaway’s screen time is very small in this film, but I will be appalled if she is not nominated for a supporting actress Oscar.

Jackman’s singing is quite good, and Crowe’s is passable. He has the physical acting talent to portray an excellent Javert, but his voice is thin and it lacks punch. Still, he hits the notes and I was stirred by his rendition of “Stars.” There have been stories about how Amanda Seyfried as Cosette had great difficulty with her songs during filming (the songs were recorded live as the actors performed, rather than in a soundbooth for later syncing), but she must eventually have found her groove because her songs are wonderfully clear, high, and sweet. The big knock-me-out-of-my-chair surprise is Samantha Barks, whom I had never heard of, as Eponine. She quite nearly steals scenes from Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius.

If there is a disappointment, I guess it’s with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thernadiers. On stage, these characters are the center of a show-stopping number called “Master of the House,” an elaborately staged, heart-racing number that serves as a pivot-point for the story. Seen all at once, it’s an impressive display of what can be done in live theater. In its film version, it’s not given wide-enough an angle, and it feels cramped and far less impressive. At worst, the actors are just okay in their scenes, but just okay seems lacking when compared to the other performances.

There is one new song, “Suddenly,” sung by Valjean, and some of the other songs are snipped, much to my appreciation because I never cared much for “Little People” anyway.

I’ve been blessed to have worked in high-school theater, so I have seen the way every performance of a play is different from every other performance of the same play. This variation and unpredictability work in the film’s favor for fans of Les Misérables, because it can easily take its place alongside other interpretations without attempting to replace any of them, appreciated for its many strengths and forgiven its occasional lapses.

I was a sobbing, tearing mess at the conclusion of this beautiful film, and I’ve heard the songs a hundred times, at least, and I just realized that this sentence could be the entire review. I can’t wait to see it again and again.

9/10 (IMDb rating)
93/100 (Criticker rating)
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Old December 31st, 2012, 12:22 PM
Honoruru Honoruru is offline
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Default Re: Les Misérables (2012)

I just saw Les Misérables yesterday and loved it. I agree with your review. This movie is dripping with emotions, over-the-top emotions. But then again, that’s what musicals (and music) are: they amplify emotions. If you love musicals, you’ll love this movie.

On another note, I saw this at Ward Center, a matinee showing, and it was packed. I couldn’t help notice that, among the audience, there were large groups of young girls (mostly pre-teens, a few teens) escorted by a parent (usually mothers or one of the mothers). There were also a large number of elderly among the audience, with their canes and walkers, escorted by their sons or daughters (usually a daughter). Not sure what to make of this. Perhaps because it’s the holiday season. Perhaps nothing. I just thought it was wonderful. They all loved, though. When the movie ended, there were applauses between the sniffles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrivener View Post
Hathaway’s screen time is very small in this film, but I will be appalled if she is not nominated for a supporting actress Oscar.
Why not best leading actress? What’s the difference between leading and supporting actress (or actors)?
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Old December 31st, 2012, 07:34 PM
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Default Re: Les Misérables (2012)

I have read the book, saw this stage production in SF at the Geary Theatre and watched the movie. I'm a fan. One thing for sure, the stage musical was much better than the movie.

On stage, the musical roughly follows the book's plot line, of course, but mostly it's about the music. Every singer belts out every song and the emotion is conveyed almost solely through song and music. Every singer 'stars' during their song(s) and that creates an effect similar to the book, which has chapters based on each character. Even the orchestra has it's time to shine.

Not so the movie. Here, music takes a backseat to visual dramatics. The first song comparable to the stage production was little Cossette's 'Castle on a Cloud'. Every song before that shrivelled, more or less, in comparison. I'm not surprised that Scriv liked Samantha Barks - she played Eponine alongside Lea Salonga's Fantine in the 2010 Anniversary Concert (Yes, I have a copy), but even her performance was obviously muted, probably to match the other less-than-stellar singers.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie. It's just not up to a stage production standard with regard to musical and emotional value. Mostly, the chorus singers outshone the stars - and that is not a good situation. One other peeve - the choice of dramatic locations in the beginning was stupid and bizarre - a movie stunt, done only because it can be done, adding nothing but eye-candy to a production that could have benefited from a bit of visual restraint and more musical emphasis. Face the facts - this is a movie musical in which the music was intentionally muted - and that is a darn shame.

Any award recognition of this movie should go to the creators of the stage source material, the movie doesn't do it justice, ever.
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Last edited by salmoned; December 31st, 2012 at 08:00 PM.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 11:36 PM
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Default Re: Les Misérables (2012)

A friend and I saw this movie today at the Ward Theater.

To me overall this was an average movie. On the minus side was the plot itself, while everyone sang in English considering that the movie takes place in France I am kind of wondering if it was better if the actors spoke their lines instead of singing it, and the length of the movie (it started around 12:15 pm, we was out around 3:10 pm or so). On the plus side was the production itself, it was big as life, the music within the movie and the comic relief of the Innkeeper couple played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.
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Old January 10th, 2013, 04:33 AM
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Default Re: Les Misérables (2012)

I pulled out Papillon from the video collection and have viewed it

for comparisons sake.

A lot of folks were weeping after seeing the work.

Clearly a moving piece.
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Old January 21st, 2013, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Les Misérables (2012)

Saw it again last night for the second time. It was even better than the first time.
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