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REVIEW – LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables Poster
2012 brings us another interpretation of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece “Les Miserables”.  This time it is based off of the Broadway musical which captured so many hearts and brought on many a teary eye.

Les Miserable has always been one of my all time favorite novels and I think I may have seen all of the different interpretations there can be of this story.  The Broadway musical is magnificent and will bring anyone to their knees.  The last time a movie version was in the theatres was with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush.  That wasn’t a musical version and followed the book very closely though leaving off the actual ending of the story.

This time director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) takes us back to the musical and gives us one of the best re-telling of the story there is.  Based more on the musical than the novel, this version of Les Miserable does things a little differently on screen than most movie musicals.  This version has the actors singing live, no production album recorded like normal with the actors lip syncing to their own voices.  This time songs were sung while the camera rolled and I think it gives us the movie goer a stronger on screen performance to watch.

With the live singing you get the raw sound and the raw emotion that goes in to singing the song and it helps pull you into the scene and make a connection with the characters.  The ever popular “I Dream A Dream”, which some dub the perfect song, rises to a higher level with Anne Hathaway’s brilliant and heart wrenching performance.  But before we get into all that a little background on the story, if you don’t know it already.

Jean Valjean, a prisoner of hard labor for stealing bread, was sentence for 19 years under the watchful eye of Javert.  Given his release papers Valjean will always be on parole for the rest of his life and must report to a parole officer or be sent back to hard labor.  Valjean decides that he needs to break free and start life a fresh and becomes mayor of a small town, running a textiles plant.

There a lady by the name of Fantine is thrown out because she is deemed unfit for working there because of having a child out of wedlock.  This starts the unraveling of her life and she is taken in my Valjean who promises that he will keep her precious daughter, Cosette safe.

Cosette is raised by Valjean but they are on the run from Javert and take refuge in a convent where they stay until she is of age.  Cosette falls in love with Marius, one of the leaders of the rebellion, during which Javert catches up with Valjean.  This time around it is Hugh Jackman who plays the strong Valgen and is in top form.  He brings heart to the ever tough man and its shows, especially through his singing.  One of the stronger voices of the cast Hugh really gets to stretch his pipes and run.  One of the best performances I have seen for the character since Neeson.

Hathaway plays the suffering Fantaine, who gives up her hair, some teeth and her dignity all so she can raise enough money to help pay her daughters keepers.  Hathaway brings a very raw emotion to the character and her rendition of I Dream a Dream will bring you to instant tears.  So much passion and emotion is poured onto the screen in that sequence it’s hard to not well up.  Her performance really makes you feel what Fantine is and has gone through for her daughter.  If she is not up for Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role Oscar I would be surprised.

Russell Crowe takes on the role as the law man Javert. Javert is by the book and only sees one thing in life, justice.  It is as if he made it his goal in life to recapture Valjean and bring into custody.  Crowe, the weakest of the singers, still puts on a top notch performance.  I think his singing voice suits the character, because I find the character of Javert, as strong as he is, a weak character because of his convictions.  His convictions are is undoing and you feel that in Crowe’s singing voice.

Great performances were also shown in Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter and Sascha Baron Cohen.  The whole cast was top shelf and it really showed on screen.  Jackman, I believe might see an Oscar nod for his role as Valjean.  I also felt the acting wasn’t over the top stage style acting.  It was passionate and to the heart.  Real emotion was put into each role and each actor will captivate you in their own way.

Director Tom Hooper has done it again, put another masterpiece on the screen.  I think he definitely should be up, if not win for Best Director this year.  He really took a chance doing the singing live and I really think it pays off.  The live singing brings that emotion needed in a story like Les Miserable to captivate and pull in the audience and have them weep for the characters, and hate the horrible monsters.  The movie was directed with a flow I haven’t seen in a musical before.  Everything just flowed and never let up.  It held your attention and kept you fixated on the screen for the whole 2 hours and 40 minutes.  It never felt long and it never dragged.  Hats of for Tom and the crew for a job well done.

The songs are from the musical and if you haven’t seen the musical just be warned.  Pretty much all of the dialogue is sung,very few words are actually spoken, but I felt that this worked to the movie’s advantage.  It helped keep the pace going and keep things moving along.  Though I did feel the pacing at the beginning felt a little quick.

If I could use two words to sum up the movie..bring tissues would be them.  The story itself is a very sad story and when you see it play out on screen it will fill you with such deep emotion.  There was many a scene that had me crying like a baby, especially at the end.

Overall I easily give this movie 5 stars out of 5.  A movie not to be missed unless you really hate musicals, then this one might not be for you.  Seriously though I think this will take Best Picture easily.  I’ve seen all of the nominations and Les Miserables really was the stand out one this year.