Les Misérables [2012] ★★★

les-mis-posterTom Hooper’s flawed but frequently dazzling “Les Misérables” is a hot-blooded musical fantasia full of songs, songs and more songs. There’s barely any spoken dialogue so basically everyone sings for nearly three hours without giving us a chance to take a deep breath! If this isn’t your cup of tea, now’s your chance to run for the nearest exit. But that would be a shame, because the movie hits more than it misses. First we get to see Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, locked up for nearly 20 years for stealing bread. Then he escapes and makes a respectable life for himself as a small-town mayor. But he is almost caught again when he tries to help the poor Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a factory girl who would do anything (even sell her hair) to support her child, Cosette. The brilliant Hathaway will blow you away when she sings how “life has killed the dream I dreamed.” Her performance will probably earn her an Oscar for “best supporting actress” but that’s another story. As for Jackman, he handles his songs in high style and acts the role perfectly well, even if he looks as French as Big Ben. Now for the bad news: Russel Crowe as Inspector Javert, Valjean’s adversary. In the book, Javert is supposed to be heartless and inhuman. Here, he’s almost laughable (even Geoffrey Rush did a better job in the 1998 version). Not to mention his singing voice (you’ll know what I mean once you hear it). Look, I may be babbling, but so is the movie at times. I appreciate the fact that the actors performed their own songs live in front of the camera. And most of the songs are well realized. But there’s no reason on earth for it to take almost 3 hours to end. The book is huge and dares to take its time, but as a musical, it could have been easily trimmed. Complaining aside, “Les Misérables” overflows with romance, heartbreak and even humor at times (leave that to Borat’s Sacha Baron Cohen). It may be less than perfect, but I found it entertaining and still worth checking out.

Rating: 3/4

5 replies »

  1. Agreed, Russell Crowe does not have a classically trained voice. However he is a singer, originally fronting the band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and now The Ordinary Fear of God. While he lacks the range of Hugh Jackman, I thought he more than made up for that in his emotional performance. I understand why Javert did what he did at the end, more in this version than I did in the two productions I’ve seen performed on the stage. I actually found this to be one of the most emotionally affecting films of the year. Check out my review to see my thoughts in depth. Great review!

  2. Way too long and too slow at times. Loved the group and hathaway’s scenes. However I think it was easier for her to shine because she only had a song or two to perform. Crowe was dreadful and even at the end I had enough with Jackman. Marius and Eponine were for me the most comfortable characters playing and singing. Couldn’t wait for the movie to end. I was disappointed 😦

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