This all time classic from the French poet and novelist Victor Hugo receives an updated version from the Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper and with the help from a star-studded cast ensemble. This movie version is largely an intact and faithful adaptation from the well-beloved and well-celebrated musical play by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. “Les Misérables” is an epic musical grandiose on every level, a beast musical coated with true tragic tales which lives up to its name and incredible songbird performances that occasionally goes over-the-top. I suspect the legion fans or those who are familiar with this production would endorse this and would definitely love this.
Release Date: 25 December 2012
Running Time: 158 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenplay: Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil; based on their musical stage play and "Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Plot: Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. In December 2012, the world's longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper's sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo's epic tale.
“Les Misérables” opens in 1815 when a convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe). Man-hunted by the authorities for repeated offences, Valjean grows ashamed by his past, vows to repent and start a new life. Eight years later, Valjean becomes a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers is dismissed by the foreman for sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen). Desperate for money, Fantine turns to prostitution. During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital. Valjean promises a dying Fantine to look after her daughter and Javert finds out who Valjean really is.
Since making its London première in 1985, “Les Misérables” becomes one of the longest running shows in the world. But unlike many other adapted musical shows, this transition into the silver screen is marked by one of the boldest decision ever – by making the movie adaptation very similar to the musical production in structure. Tom Hooper asks his cast to sing live during the filming instead of recording them. Surely, he also allows the movie to be song-dialogue structured and looks almost deprived of any usual dialogue we could be expecting. The main element of been a musical act is to gracefully distribute them evenly across three different chapters (referring to the year in the timeline) and across the familiar five-volume features of the play.
But those matter the least because the plot is arguably fluid but flowing in a ridiculously fast paced, yet still spawning a running time of about 160 minutes. Please do note that Hugo’s original novel is a monstrous 1500-page, so any attempt to squeeze them is an uphill challenge for scribers. Even with a madly rushed pacing, the story merely develops and matures into full capacity, but that is okay. There are plenty of story arcs to be explored though, as viewers will be asked to self-built the story from the eyes of Valjean, Javert, Cosette, Fantine, Eponine, the Thenardiers, and Marius; all beautifully narrated and presented through lyrics and music, and arranged with grace coming from vocal chords. With an impressive setting and musical chomp, the movie looks spectacular and viable yet still noticeably over-the-top.
With so many materials to be handled, songs are not exactly subtle to colour them all vividly. Certain songs take time to develop the story and to sink in. But a normal dialogue would have give in effortlessly. There are moments that work, and there are moments too when it feels something is lacking. Songs like “Look Down”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Suddenly”, “Master of the House”, “One Day More” and “Red and Black” spring the story into life, progresses well with ample portrayal of instinctive themes like struggle, redemption and revolution. But there are other numbers like “On Parole”, “Valjean’s Soliloguy” and “Stars” are just too oddly been placed on that same progression note. Not been critical about the song choices but I think Russell Crowe’s attack on the songs is not effective to capture the appropriate glimpse of elements. Crowe is the weakest singer, no doubt.
In the presence of the others, “Les Misérables” is probably blessed to have Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne, among others to suit into the odd-job left by Crowe. Anne Hathaway’s 25-minute performance as the tortured mother of the illegitimate child is probably the most heart-wrecking felt and the winner of them all. She gracefully tunes “I Dreamed a Dream” anthem into the highlight of the movie. Jackman’s experience in Broadway certainly helps him a lot in the performance wise as a sinner-turned-hero comfort for Fantine and Cosette while Redmayne’s performance as Marius is richly captivating.
In the end, Les Misérables is a spectacular and viable musical adaptation of the famed stage play, which in turn is based on Victor Hugo’s finest novel. The graceful performance by Anne Hathaway and fine storming direction by Tom Hooper seems to offset the madly rushed pacing and some derivative weak musical numbers from hurting the true potential of the movie.