Movie: From Stage To Screen Comes “Les Misérables”
January 8, 2013
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
“Les Misérables” is one of those rare compositions-- having been a novel, a Broadway musical and now having two movie adaptations to its name - that has survived the test of time in all of its variations. It has fans all over the world that will swear up and down that it is the best musical ever to grace the stage. Fans can certainly let out a sigh of relief as the latest film adaptation is sure to please them.
In 19th Century France prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is finally released from his sentence only to go on and break his parole. Over the next few years he carves out a new life for himself all the while trying to outrun policeman Javert (Russell Crowe), who is single mindedly pursuing him to bring him back to prison. While hiding in plain sight, Jean Valjean runs a factory where one of his workers Fantine (Anne Hathaway) slaves away to send money home to her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen then Amanda Seyfried as an adult) who is being taken care of by a terrible family of innkeepers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their daughter Éponine (Samantha Barks). Fantine is forced to make a career change in order to continue to support her daughter, but when she becomes ill and dies Jean Valjean vows to take care of Cosette. It is this arrangement that sets up the rest of the film, as well as the fates of all of the characters, during the rebellion of France’s lower classes against the aristocracy.
“Les Misérables” has been getting a lot of press since its release, especially now that awards season is drawing near, and, to be honest, it should be. This is the movie that fans of the musical have wished and waited for. From an aesthetic standpoint the film is fantastic with all of the characters period costumes, the sets and the French scenery being quite lovely and spot on. What stands out and makes the film what it is though are the actors.
Playing the tortured Jean Valjean, Jackman does an admirable job, while Crowe as Inspector Javert is clearly the weakest link in the film, but still manages to pull off his character fine. A lot of talk has been going around concerning Hathaway getting an Oscar nomination for her role as Fantine; she has a great vocal range, did the part justice and really sold it for all it was worth, but her screen time is minimal. Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, who plays Cosette’s love interest Marius, go very well together vocally and acting wise. The scene stealers of the film though were Baron Cohen, Bonham Carter and Barks. The innkeepers’ introduction scene and song was perfect with Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter being delightfully grungy and a bit over the top; every scene they were in you could not help, but love them even though their characters were terrible people. Barks’ Éponine was tragic and heartbreaking and her singing of “On My Own” was beautiful.
“Les Misérables” is not without its flaws, the pacing is too slow for a nice portion of the films too long runtime for one, but overall it’s a pleasant movie going experience and it is great to see a musical brought to the big screen properly.
“Les Misérables” runs 157 minutes and is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements. It is in theaters now.