In the scope of movies, musicals have not fared particularly well. The last attempt at a blockbuster musical was “Mamma Mia!” and while it did well, it wasn’t enough to break the genre into everyday territory.
This time, a far bleaker movie spearheads the attempt into mainstream. “Les Miserables,” based on the Victor Hugo book and made into movies and a Tony award winning play, could be vying for the big awards come early 2013 and can make or break the genres time in the spotlight.
The films central character is Jean Valjean(Hugh Jackman), a convict who skipped out on parole and assumes a new identity, on the run from policeman Javert(Russell Crowe), who promises to find him and send him back to jail. With his new identity he comes to be the caretaker of Cosette(Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of the dying Fantine(Anne Hathaway), who sent her daughter off to be cared for and paid for her care with everything she had. He retrieves her from the innkeepers, the Thenardiers(Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), who have been extorting Fantine, and settles the debt to take Cosette. Years later, after the pair has moved and Valjean takes another identity, Cosette and the revolutionary soldier Marius(Eddie Redmayne) fall in love and Valjean has completed the promises he made.
The film is sung throughout, with only a few spoken words. Perhaps this ups the intensity of the film, and watery eyes are not a stranger to the first hour of the movie.
As the movie near the two hour mark, there is a stretching as it encompasses more of the stories and the revolution occurring in France.
Many are familiar with Jackman’s voice work as well as Seyfried’s, and Hathaway proved herself jut through the numerous trailers featuring her singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” The surprise was, perhaps,in Crowe, who seemed far stiffer than the rest of the cast as he sang, but that may be excused due to the nature of the character of Javert, the strict lawman who is hunting Valjean.
An opportunity to lighten up the miserable tales, Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter play the Thenardiers, innkeepers who specialize in thieving from their guests. These two, in their gaudy get ups and copious amount s of makeup, attempt to bring some levity to the film, and succeed only part of the time.
The visuals of the movie add immense detail to a story filled with it. Shots of Paris during this time period are created and take the film from an intimate story of one man’s journey to that of a country’s journey to freedom.
All of the actors sang live throughout filming. Director Tom Hooper revealed in the press junket that all the actors wore two radio microphones to capture the sound, and were edited out of the film frame by frame.
This movie is one on a grander scale than any recently, and pulls emotion from every corner the notes are able to reach. What Tom Hooper and his cast were able to do was bring the loved musical to life on such an epic scale that it leaves little to be desired for fans of the original play, or for those experiencing the tale for the first time.
“Les Miserables” is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements and stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne.