As much as some disapprove of Tom Hooper’s cinematic rendition of the renowned musical based off of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”, I found it fantastically entertaining! Granted, there were some aspects of the story, which not being the fault of Hooper or anyone else involved in the film, rather the story itself is not necessarily to my full liking. However some plot elements may find my disapproval, the manner in which the plight of the poor is highlighted is an excellent wake-up call to all of my fellow members of the middle class who go to see it for the “Broadway element”.
Hooper has been highly criticized for his use of the camera in the first part of the film, when Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is serving first as a prisoner, then as a man on parole, then as a mayor, and when the tragic Fantine (Anne Hathaway) finds herself working in the brothels. I found the unbridled use of the free hand camera to work well with the story at the time, accentuating the grief of the characters.
The second part when Fantine and Marius first meet, was exquisite! I loved the use of light, the subliminal images captured in the background during the songs, and the singers themselves were quite pleasing. Especially, I found “In My Life”, “A Heart Full of Love”, and “One Day More” to be three of the best musically performed numbers in the entire film. Eddie Redmayne’s voice worked superbly in the part of Marius, as did Amanda Seyfried in the role of Cosette. However, my two personal favourites were Jackman and Crowe, who I think fit their characters quite well. In particular I found Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Javert to be fulfilling of the character’s status as the tragic villain. In the way in which Crowe seemed a bit stiff at times, it seemed as though the character’s compassion was trying desperately to show through at certain points, in particular when Javier joins the revolutionaries at the midpoint of the film, and when at his own end, he seemed to try to want to understand the concept of repentance as shown to him by Valjean just a few minutes before.
The struggle of the student revolutionaries was commendable, if not flawed. I didn’t care too much for them, except perhaps when Gavroche was killed, which was sad for everyone both on screen and in the cinema. The second act went by at a good pace, and ended with an excellent quartet performed by Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, and the Bishop of Digne, but of course closed with a fine Broadway style chorus reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing”, sung by the majority, if not the entire cast (I didn’t see Javert amongst the characters on the barricade, but he might have just slipped my vision.)
Overall, I enjoyed “Les Misérables”, and would recommend it to anyone interested. In a scale of 5 stars, I would give it about a 4 for good storytelling, and giving a fairly realistic (beside the singing part) interpretation of the life of the working classes of early 19th century France.