'Les Miserables ' Review: Anne Hathaway Shines Brightest In This All-Star Cast
“Les Miserables” has all the power it needs to generate all sorts of feelings – mainly tears – but like any other musical; it’s designed for a particular crowd. With the success it garnered since its 1985 stage production, there’s no question Hollywood’s version will entice theater-based masses all over the world, however, gaining the same level of respect remains to be seen.
I can count on one hand how many musicals I’ve actually liked, but honestly, like “Sweeney Todd,” “Les Miserables” wasn’t that bad. It is a bit awkward to watch Wolverine (Jackman), Borat (Cohen), Cat-woman (Hathaway), Gladiator (Crowe) and Red Riding Hood (Seyfried) performing on different levels, but it does make them stand out in terms of talent. This project surely challenged them seeing as it was shot unlike any other recent musical. Director Tom Hooper’s (“King’s Speech”) added a degree of difficulty to this musical by having the actors sing live.
At about 3 hours of music to the French Revolution, “Les Miserables” takes us on a journey following Ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who’s hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), their lives change forever.
When it comes to music, it has the power to inject emotion and mood that comes deep within our mind, body, and soul. This grand result as I mentioned before stems from vocals while shooting. Of the talented bunch, it’s more Jackman and Hathaway who take this film and drive it from start to finish. However, of the two, Hathaway’s role, although small, provided the most impact. Her character just oozes harsh emotion, and when released, I was SO taken by her performance. It’s so deep, the crowd erupted in a pretty lengthy round of applauds, along with sniffles.
My other favorites where Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, who play the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier, the pick pocket king and queen of the streets of Paris; and oddly the earlier caretakers of Cosette. Comical, likable, enjoyable, and completely entertaining, these two carry another side to this gritty story which helped ease all the distress which carries much of the film.
While I'm at it: lots of respect and kudos to Hooper’s take on shooting as well! The cinematography and production design also adds to this film’s visual enjoyment. Pacing between acts, the harsh existence in which these characters lived upon wasn’t in the least bit subtle. It was as harsh and raw as could be, elevating every single scene as the film moves along.
Now we come to the opposite of what this film provides – Russell Crowe. This man is an actor I truly respect and enjoy watching over and over. His looks, aura, and commanding existence fit well, but totally the opposite when it comes to singing. There are moments where it flares with decent notes courtesy of him, however, most of the time, I think it would have served better if his image should have been used for the character, but someone else doing the singing – clearly this film’s low.
Coming from someone who hasn’t seen the live production, the story endures because its meaning nourishes our deepest human wants and needs. Despite its “downer,” I don’t really see how such a production can fail in any sense of acknowledgement whether cashing in heavily or not. It has its strength; it has a remarkable cast, and last but not least, has its “preemptive” crowd. Opening Christmas Day, “Les Miserables” will be one that’ll be talked about during award nominations.
Grade: B / Genre: Adaptation, Drama, Musical/Performing Arts / Run Time: 2 Hrs. 40 Min. / Rated: PG-13
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Tom Hooper
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