Thursday, January 3, 2013

Les Miserables - Movie Review

Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Colm Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.  Directed by Tom Hooper.


This didn't feel like its own movie. It's an enhancement, part of a package to the Les Miserables experience.  It's another way to live through the material.  Les Miz the play is still the way to see this, but the film allows more acting to move to the fore.

Tom Hooper's decision to do lots of close-ups pays off more often than it doesn't. It also means the actors are singing live for the camera without the benefit of being dubbed in a studio. It means that the acting matters more than the singing.  Russell Crowe, for instance, gives a very good physical performance as Javert, but singing-wise most of his songs are beyond what he's capable of nailing. He'd go in and out of nasal quality and strain for those higher pitches, which is a good two-thirds of Javert's lines.  More than once I felt bad for him.

The majority of the cast comes off quite well.  Hugh Jackman, I thought, was tremendous. Vocally he's there (even if he isn't Alfie Boe), and we really feel the pain behind songs like "Who Am I" and "Bring Him Home."  It'd be a crime if he weren't nominated for this.  Anne Hathaway is as good as you've heard. Her "I Dreamed A Dream" is heartbreaking, and by my eye, done in one take.

Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) is also the first time I kind of liked Marius.  It's easy not to like him when he falls in love so easily with Cosette and ignores Eponine, but I credit Redmayne's performance. The first tear the movie got from me was when Marius sings his final note in his "Little Fall of Rain" duet with Eponine. (Eponine is played by Samantha Barks, who also played the role in Les Miserables in Concert 25th Anniversary.)

Faring the worst were the Thenardiers. I expected Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter to be over the top, but all the close-ups for them ruined the humor of "Master of the House." It actually reminded me of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a hilarious musical that made for a bad movie under Richard Lester's direction in 1966.

This movie is an experience. It's flawed, but it leaves an impact, and it let me see Les Miz in a new light. That must count for something.

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