Darke Reviews – Les Miserables (2012)

So, let’s talk Les Miserables.

I know my site partner┬ádidn’t like it. Not her thing, me however, cried about every third song thanks to the delivery and performances by the actors within.

Director Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech) took a lot of risks in his approach to this film. He cast mostly unknown to (hollywood) actors through the film that would have to deliver some of the most gut wrenching songs to hit broadway. He then made a very controversial decision to record the actors singing live, rather than ADR in a booth much later.

Typically when a musical is done for film, the actors will sing live as they are being filmed, then go into a booth weeks or months earlier to be recorded for the voice overlay in the movie. Not this time. What happens with this style is that you now have all the raw emotion that the actor is delivering in face and body language brought out in the voice as well.

Starting with Hugh Jackman as Jean valJean’s, no stranger to broadway, in Valjean’s Soliloquy, brought all the range of emotion from anger to remorse in a single song. It was near perfect for someone like me who had never seen Colm Wilkinson perform this live.

Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine. I don’t know where to begin? When Uma Thurman played her in the non musical version a few years back I was excited to see her fate. Now…I was moved to tears by the raw nerve level pain she expressed in I dreamed a dream. The trailer only conveys part of it folks. You truly feel for this woman and it’s all Hathaway.

As much as I would want to NOT talk about Sasha Baron Cohen or Helena Bonham Carter, they both turned in an above average and completely deplorable performance as the Thenardiers. They were everything that they needed to be and more. Well cast, well sung, well performed.

Samantha Barks, who also played Eponine in the West End production, nearly had me bawling with every word during On My Own, Heart Full of Love and her final song. She is possibly the most tragic character in the film next to Fantine.

The other performers such as Russel Crowe’s Javert who you actually feel sorry for by his final song, Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) and David Huttlestone (Gavroche), all perform as well but none of them quite drive the same level of emotion as Jackman, Hathaway and Barks.

The movie, as epic and moving as it is (half our theatre was in tears) is not without its flaws. Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Cosette didn’t move me at all, and in fact hurt a few times with her high notes. I would have preferred Emma Watson (who had also auditioned for the part). I do admit I am not a fan of the elder Cosette or her songs in the play to begin with so, your mileage may vary.

I was not as moved by Empty Chairs as I had hoped, but that may be my own expectations after the Jonas brother performance during the 25th anniversary concert. The desire to be “realistic” in the escape from the barricade was nauseating to say the least. Finally, the director and cinematographers desire to do close ups for most every solo was a bit overdone by the end of the film. I like Hugh Jackman, I didn’t need to know where every pore on his face was with 40 feet of face!

If you are a lover of the original novel, it’s musical adaptation or musicals in general, this is an absolutely must see film. You should have stopped reading this review and been in line already! If you enjoy a good tear-jerker, good drama and the story this tells go see it!

If you aren’t a fan of any of the above, steer clear. This film will likely not do it for you.

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