Les Misérables


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Les Miserables
"There is a sense of danger in performances that are called upon to hit high musical and emotional notes simultaneously."

Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's musical based on Victor Hugo's classic tale of love and loss against the backdrop of French revolutionary barricades has been seen by more than 60 million people since it opened in London back in 1985, which would make it banker no matter what. And there is more than enough here to win over those who like a good musical number and/or a damn good cry but think the theatre is just for luvvies.

This big-screen adaptation, directed by Tom Hooper, may be taking the action away from the confines of a stage but it retains much of the theatricality that you would associate with the original production. Given that every single line is sung there was never going to be a lot of room for naturalism, and those unwilling to embrace the amped-up costumes and make-up early on may find it hard to go with the flow. The film does have a 'natural' trump card, however, in that all of the songs were shot live on the set, rather than being lip-synched later, which lends the actors an immediacy and vulnerability that would likely have been lost through tinkering. There is a sense of danger in performances that are called upon to hit high musical and emotional notes simultaneously.

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This evocation of the life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, holding nothing back) takes him on a journey from convict to man of substance down the decades, all the time hunted by the morally stringent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Along the way, he encounters prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and finds himself entrusted with the care of her child Cosette (Isabelle Allan and, later, Amanda Seyfried) before becoming embroiled in a Parisian uprising courtesy of young firebrand Marius (Eddie Redmayne, virtually stealing the show). Weaving in and out of the action are ne'er-do-well inkeepers the Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), who pop up to provide a spot of comedy when things get too portentous, and additional moppet Gavroche, whose annoying (and pretty interminable in its original form) song Little People, has been mercifully cut short. Medicore ballad Castle On A Cloud has also been sensibly truncated for the film and there is an additional song, Suddenly, to help keep the action flowing smoothly as Valjean flees with Cosette.

There's surprisingly strong singing on display. Redmayne shows his time in the Eton College Choir was not in vain and Hathaway brings a heartbreaking fragility to I Dreamed A Dream that washes away memories of SuBo on a tide of melancholy. Jackman's musical pedigree goes way back and it's only a shame that he puts fellow Antipodean Crowe - all square-jaw and stodginess - in the shade vocally, when their characters should be squaring up for a sing-off of equals. Former telly wannabe Samantha Barks - who came third in the I'd Do Anything reality TV hunt for Nancy in Oliver! - is a revelation as the Thénardiers's put-upon daughter Éponine, giving the A-listers elsewhere in the cast as good as they get in terms of acting clout as well as singing up a storm.

Though the emotional waves keep coming, without the aid of the theatrical interval to give filmgoers an emotional breather, things do sag in places thanks to the two-hour busting runtime, particularly in the early Parisian scenes when Marius finds himself caught between the twin fires of Cosette and Éponine. Musicals, however, are known for their showpiece finales and this one does not disappoint. Even the stiff upper lipped Javerts in the audience are likely to leave with a lump in their throat... and Do You Hear The People Sing running round in their heads for a week.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2013
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Les Misérables packshot
All-singing, no-dancing rendition of the Schönberg and Boublil musical.
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Director: Tom Hooper

Writer: Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer, Jean-Marc Natel, James Fenton, William Nicholson, based on the novel by Victor Hugo

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Cavin Cornwall, Josef Altin, Dave Hawley, Adam Jones, John Barr

Year: 2012

Runtime: 157 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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