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Les Misérables– Movie Review

Submitted by on January 5, 2013 – 10:11 amOne Comment
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In the back row of the theater where I saw the film of the musical Les Misérables, a young woman (tween?) sobbed uncontrollably as Enjorlas met his untimely end. And as I stepped out into Union Square afterwards, a long-haired young man literally stood on a soap box, waving a red hammer-and-sickle flag, preaching of a new tomorrow. But I didn’t necessarily see this living spirit of romance and revolution in Tom Hooper‘s flashy but muddled adaptation.

Inspired by Victor Hugo‘s novel and the record-breaking Broadway musical of the same name, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, serves 19 years hard labor for his crime, violates his parole to began a new, honest life, adopts the impoverished daughter of a prostitute (Anne Hathaway), is discovered and pursued by the vengeful and uncompromising Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), and is caught in the Revolution of 1848 in Paris. (I summarize a bit.)

I thought the singing, one of the most argued-over aspects of the film, featured some great performances mixed with some pretty bad ones. Hathaway is plain fantastic, sounding beautiful and moving at the same time. And Crowe, perhaps the most derided of the lot, actually sounds alright as a baritone- he just can’t act and sing at the same time, a shame for the acclaimed thespian. Unfortunately, though Jackman is the most accomplished musical theater performer of the group, he strains for high notes throughout and leans almost entirely on belting. The supporting cast varies in their solo moments. Brief appearances by Colm Wilkinson, the original West End and Broadway Valjean, and an anonymous soldier at the barricade with a great voice, are quick treats.

Then, the film drags on. And on. Maybe the stage production can get away with this sprawling story, jumping over years, locations, and characters. But seeing it so close up showed the cracks and seams: with so many events and characters, it’s difficult to get attached and believe them. Valjean’s selfless heroics become repetitive; Marius seems starry-eyed and dense; Javert’s obsession with Valjean ultimately seems shallow given the war raging around him; and all of the coincidences and twists of fate pile up.

So by the time Marius and Cosette begin to make mushy eyes at each other and sing in falsetto, I just wasn’t interested.

Did you see Les Mis? What did you think?

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