Les Misérables

Disclaimer: I have watched the musical three times, and the most recent is in Oct 2012. In preparation for this movie, I had also started listening to the 25th Anniversary recording at O2. Yes, so in other words, a big fan here!

Let one get thing straight: this is a musical dramatisation of the Victor Hugo's novel and not a big screen adaption of the musical. So fans of the musical please do be ready to adapt and shift your expectations. As a movie this is a directorial and visual triumph for Tom Hooper. His style is so distinctive and the use of live recording of the singing is both a bane and boon of the movie. Live singing allows for a gorgeous uninterrupted experience and some seriously fantastic long shots and ace acting from the stars; however, the live singing marred the musical experience because some actors tend to waver and for a musical where the drama and emotion is carried more by the singing, the audience is not brought along the emotional roller coaster that Les Mis is so famed for. The opening scenes of the Two Acts alone justify this movie. Stunning! Grand! and only if they could translate it to the stage. The movie also filled up a lot of narrative gaps in the musical and was very welcomed. Similarly, the new song, "Suddenly" filled the emotional gap of Jean Valjean's character arc. A lot had been mentioned about Russell Crowe's singing in the news, but I do not think he is that bad. His interpretation of Javert was refreshing and his singing and timbre reflects the way he and the director chose to portray the inspector. Sure he could not reached the range and was flat at times when he's softer, but Crowe's acting was spot on. That is more than can be said for Hugh Jackman. His Jean Valjean, was to me, the biggest disappointment. He can sing but his voice is such a disparity from the character (as I have known), the way he chose to play him and the songs. His voice itself just could not "act" and lacked the necessary gravitas. His Jean Valjean just seemed weak and too wishy washy to be the central figure. Jackman just couldn't consistently juggle to act, move and sing at the same time; scenes where he was stationary had the best singing. But I think, he chose to focus on his acting more than his singing. His best was his first big song, sadly that was too early in the show. And his rendition of "Suddenly" sadly felt empty as was "Bring Him Home". Anne Hatheway, on the other hand, has secured her Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress. Her single scene of "I Dreamed a Dream" was a masterclass and Hooper knew it for he framed the song in one gorgeous and emotional long take. Samantha Barks was the best singer of the lot, no surprise there. Her 2 songs have always been the emotional heart of the musical. Sadly, Eponine seemed to be portrayed here as less significant than on the stage. Eddie Redmayne was a pleasant surprise. This boy can sing and his Marius was actually interesting. The Thenardiers were disappointing. Their bit was played for crass laugh and Sasha Baron Cohen really did his character a disservice. Also, Helena Bonhem Carter had no chemistry with Cohen, hence their comedic double act felt flat. Hooper and the film are likely to get their respective nominations, though I don't see the movie winning. Furthermore, I see the rest of the cast as long shots, except for the shoo-in of Hatheway. It's very rare that the audience claps at the end, but clap they did this time. An enjoyable, gorgeous film that is different from the musical, but between them both, I would watch the musical many more times (especially with good musical artistes).


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