Fresh off the success of The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper tackles one of the biggest projects any director could ask for, adapting a successful musical to the big screen. As if this would not have been difficult already, Hooper decided to up the ante by making the actor sing live for the scenes instead of a pre-recorded soundtrack for them to lip-sync to. After seeing the final product I cannot believe this was not done before.
A brief introduction to Les Miserables is near impossible with all the years the story takes place over but here it goes: Set in France in the 1800’s, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) just got out of prison for stealing a loaf of bread and is given to new lease on life from the generosity of a priest. Valjean then break his parole and assumes a new identity to evade the relentless Javert (Russell Crowe) who is relentlessly seeking to bring Valjean back to prison. Under his new identity Valjean meet Fantine (Anne Hathaway) a desperate woman doing whatever it takes to earn money to send to her child that is under the care of two thieves, the Thenardiers (Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter). Valjean makes a promise to Fantine to rescue Cosette and give her the life she deserves. Click here for the trailer.
Past attempts of bringing Les Miserables to the big screen have been disasters but thank God for Tom Hooper because his movie does the play/novel serious justice. I have seen the play countless times but have never read the book, so when I saw this movie it was great to see the sets that better helped establish different songs and scenes to better understand the story. The costumes and make up I’m sure is exaggerated for effect but it all looked fantastic! The poor looked absolutely worn and disgusting while the rich were clean cut with clothing with not a single stray string.
Another major plus for Hooper’s Les Miserables is the quality of acting that brings a whole new meaning to the lyrics. Hugh Jackman was phenomenal as Valjean both vocally and physically. He has a great voice and Valjean is supposed to have near supernatural strength so Jackman’s physique does not seem out of place even for this time period. In case you could not tell from the trailer Anne Hathaway is sensational as Fantine especially as she sings one of the most heartfelt versions of “I Dreamed A Dream” I have ever heard. It appears to all be one shot/take and if it was my mind is absolutely blown. Russell Crowe has received some flak for his singing but I must admit I rather enjoyed it. Plus even if you were displeased with his singing, he so made up for it with his acting such as facial expressions and body signals, Crowe was a great Javier. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks were irreplaceable in their respective roles as Marius and Eponine. And certainly not least Cohen and Carter as the Thenardier were great comedic relief in a rather depressing story.
The being that the songs are sang live in Hooper’s film there is a difference in how they sounded in the movie versus on stage. In the movie the actor sang the songs with the emotion of the scene where as on the stage the actors sang the songs with precision. Vocally I will always prefer to big booming voice that the actors on stage have but visually you have to go with the actors of Hooper’s movie for the emotions they evoke.
Overall, I cannot see anyone who loves the Les Miserables play not loving this movie. My family and I certainly did. Hands down one of the best movie of the year and possibly all time. I give Les Miserables a 9/10 only because I prefer the powerful voices of the stage actors.