By Lane Roberts
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, in which (spoiler alert) just about every character suffers and dies, Les Misérables was certainly not the feel good movie of the holiday season.
Imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to keep his family from starving, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) breaks parole but spends the remainder of his life running from the persistent Inspector Javert (Russel Crowe). Along the way, he adopts Cosette (played as a young woman by Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a doomed prostitute, Fantine (Anne Hathaway). Cosette eventually falls in love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a revolutionary caught up in the chaos of the 1832 Paris rebellion.
Overblown and overlong, Les Mis left me confused and with a throbbing headache.
Director Tom Hooper made the risky decision of having the actors sing live on set rather than lip-sync to pre-recorded tracks. Although I appreciated the raw, intimate mood it created for the film, this technique made it difficult at times to understand the actors and, in a movie where there is literally no dialogue, I found this to be a major issue. I couldn’t figure out the main character’s name until about halfway into the film.
In retrospect, the film was clearly made for the 60 million people who had previously seen the show on stage and could appreciate the show’s interminable soundtrack, an impressive fifty songs that aren’t really songs, but rather just endless stretches of dialogue set to droning music.
To be fair, the film does a good job of showcasing most of the stars’ talent. Jackman and Hathaway, both classically trained singers, succeeded in wowing audiences, notably the latter with her stirring performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
However, poor Russel Crowe pales in comparison (he tried, guys, he really did). I know producers wanted to impress audiences with the A-list cast, but watching Crowe try and match Jackman was cringe-worthy.
Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks (Eponine) are impressive, while the few appearances of Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as Monsieur and Madame Thénardiers provide much needed comic relief from the misery of the story.
While fans of the original production will, no doubt, appreciate the film if for no other reason than its pure theatrical power, I found myself dreaming a dream that time would go by much faster so the movie would finally end.