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Les MisÚrables - Film Review

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by Adam Ray Palmer (subscribe)
A film reviewer, a poem dabbler and an admirer of words. They are funny things aren't they? Words, where would we be without them? On TV probably.
Published January 16th 2013
Les Miserables was so miserable it was brilliant.

Academy Award-winning Tom Hooper took to the helm of one of the most celebrated musicals of all time.

The Headline Poster For Les Miserables

Who would have thought that on 8th October 1985 in the Barbican Centre, London that a musical was being performed that would 27 years later still stand strong with a major production company bringing the show to life on the big screen, gathering eight Oscar nominations along the way? A very few amount of people I imagine. Well, enter Tom Hooper and the delightful cast and crew to help him produce a musical masterpiece.

This emotional, epic drama is a writing masterwork. The script is expertly adapted with the dialogue being sung at all times along with all the classic numbers too. Nicholson, Boublil, Schonberg and Kretzmer are the four screenwriters that take this musical to the big screen with such professionalism it looked easy. The dialogue and the positioning of songs throughout this classic are spot on. I understand that it may look simple as there is a musical already in place to mimic, but a big screen version takes care and attention to detail to make the scenes flow. This is also down to the director Tom Hooper.

Hooper's direction is an interesting element in this dramatic, musical film. Tom's idea was to give the audience the feeling of being at the musical, but even closer to the action than sitting in the stalls. He positioned his cameras to be no more than three foot away from the characters which was great, but not for three hours. It was brilliant for a few of the numbers like Anne Hathaway's 'I Dreamed a Dream' scene but it became irritating for nearly every sequence. I am not surprised he was overlooked for an Oscar nomination in the 'Best Director' category.

Moving on from the crew, the array of talent in the casting department was truly mesmerising. I could list so many names that impressed me but I will only mention the characters that truly astounded me. I thought the anchor of the film, Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), was extraordinary as the ex-convict. From his amazing voice to his haunting, expressionistic acting, he was truly a joy to watch. Anne Hathaway (Fantine) had the same effect on me; she too was mind-blowing with her version of 'I Dreamed A Dream' and she left an imprint on the film as it went on. I have three names that I would like to give a special recognition to because I feel they were remarkable with the screen time they were given. Samantha Barks was sensational as the heartbroken Eponine with her staggering voice and impressive acting skills, hard to believe this is only her first acting credit in a film. She gave me my favourite scene in the film with Eddie Redmayne when they are together at the barricade, it was alluring acting. Eddie Redmayne himself deserves a mention as the brave Marius who falls in love with Cosette, but all is not as simple as he would have hoped. Redmayne's scene in the bar is stunning when he performs 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables'. My last recognition is Daniel Huttlestone who plays Gavroche; a young, courageous urchin who teams up with the revolutionaries. He is an instant favourite with the audience; he makes the viewers give him the will to fight on.

On a slightly negative casting note, I thought Russell Crowe was a weak link in respect to his singing. I understand his chemistry with Hugh Jackman bagged him the 'Javert' role but maybe the producers should have made him sing in a studio to edit his voice. In addition, I found Amanda Seyfried poor in her role as Cosette. I thought she brought nothing to the character. It looked like she was just employed because everyone knows she can sing thanks to the musical hit Mamma Mia!

The Verdict
To sum up, excluding the minor kinks of Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe's voice and Hooper's irritating direction at times; I thought the film was a great adaptation of an epic portrayal of the most emotional musical ever written by Victor Hugo (who wrote the novel). That sounds confusing I know, but so is the story at times! Eddie Redmayne is my highlight of the film and what a voice the man has; I predict a bright future for him. Samantha Barks may get more acting jobs after her part in this film too. Jackman and Hathaway deserve their nominations and awards but let me tell you, there's a lot more to this film than the two Hollywood favourites. This dramatic musical-film is a must-see.

Star Rating: 5/5
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Why? To See The Most Celebrated Musical On The Big Screen
When: Now Showing
Where: In Cinemas
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