I’ll start off with admitting that I don’t care for musical films. I’ve seen enough to have come to that conclusion. If it’s live theatre, I can enjoy them but musical film, I don’t.
With that said: Les Misérables. The film version of the musical which launched nearly thirty years ago based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. Set in 19th century France, the story is centred around a prisoner, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who escapes parole and later goes on to lead an admirable life though is still hunted by his parole guard Javert (Russell Crowe). The story spans decades, following Valjean from his troubled start as a free man to a well-respected mayor and factory owner who vows to ensure the best for Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway). Fantene is one of his factory workers who gets fired and must become a prostitute to send money to support her daughter, who has been in the care of M. and Mme. Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their young daughter Éponine (Natalya Wallace/Samantha Barks).
Going into the movie with as neutral a mind as I could muster, I denote points for the following:
– The casting was impressive. While only a few of the roles are consistent for the entire movie, even some of the smaller roles such as Amanda Seyfried, who appears in the latter portion of the film as an older Cosette, or Anne Hathaway as Fantene for the first segment, are significant. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are the real treat, however, and those fans of Master Of The House can scream with glee when they lead the chorus through that.
– Russell Crowe was the weakest link. Not because he’s a weak singer by any means but lining him up with the voices of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway points out how limited he is. His casting was perhaps the most off-putting for the whole movie, which is unfortunate since his is the most present character other than Jackman’s. He often seemed out of place both visually and in song. It was distracting.
– Another of the other impressive characters cast include Daniel Huttlestone, who played Gavroche, the young boy who took part in the rebellion and joined in with those who set up the barricade. He had the spirit to make that role stand out and delivered some of the best lines in the story.
– The film felt extremely long. Perhaps due the story being so long but even parts of songs were shortened themselves leaving the film at a length of two hours, thirty eight minutes.
– The best moment of the film, without debate, comes with Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed A Dream, which is sure to become a legendary moment in musical film. It was stellar! Being unfamiliar with the story already, I was surprised how early that scene occurred and thus felt I didn’t have enough time to get to know Fantine before that song was performed. Anne did a gripping, emotional performance of it that I felt heartless not responding to right then and there. In retrospect, after having had time to think and focus on Fantine’s experiences, that performance was worth the rest of the film and had I left after Fantine’s portion ended part way through, I wouldn’t have felt at a loss for having missed the rest.
The film didn’t convert me in any way to the story itself or musicals in general, which accounts for points not gained but it would be silly of me to dismiss it as anything less than a story well-done by a wonderful cast with bigger-than-life performances. Director Tom Hooper‘s idea to have the actors sing live to the camera was an admirable step and for the most part, it succeeded. It felt authentic for the plot (again, particularly Anne Hathway) but it perhaps would have been wise to have not made it strictly live-only for everyone (again, for Russell Crowe). Good for people who love the stage show and love musicals. For those who don’t, reconsider being the adventurous type.