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Review: Les Miserables

Les Miserables
Dec. 24, 2012by:
9 10

PLOT: LES MISÉRABLES is the epic motion picture of the popular musical based on Victor Hugo’s French historical novel of the same name. The story of two men on opposite sides of the law in a poverty stricken land presents itself as an ambitious story that spans several decades. Is this musical larger than life, or far too intimate for its own good? Read on…

REVIEW: After spending nineteen years in prison for the crime of stealing bread to feed his family, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is finally set free. Even still, the officer in charge of the prisoner bears no sympathy for the man he considers a heathen. Officer Javert (Russell Crowe) releases Jean Valjean but labels him a danger to society and places the convict on parole. Now considering the fact he only stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, I already despise this Javert fellow.

While making his way in the world, Valjean is treated with animosity by everyone he meets. Desperate, he ends up stealing from the one person that showed him pity. However, the kindly priest has great sympathy for Valjean and lets him go with several pricey artifacts so he can start a new life without the label given to him by Javert.

Years later he has made a new life for himself, with a new identity, Monsieur Madeleine, and a new position as a factory owner and Mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He himself lends his kindness to one of his factory workers, a girl named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) after he realizes she had been fired for ridiculous circumstances without his knowledge. He re-discovers her when she is about to be arrested for assaulting a client while working as a prostitute. This is where she begs him to take pity and help her daughter whom she sends all her money to. At the time, her sweet young daughter is locked away with an evil Innkeeper and his wife (Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter).

That not-so-brief description is only the beginning, as LES MISÉRABLES is a sprawling and massively epic tale of brotherhood, revenge and of course romance. And for those of you wondering, it is a musical in the truest sense of the word. There is nary a moment that dialogue isn’t sung or music isn’t swelling in the background. For those unfamiliar with this particular play, the music tells the story on every level. Whenever a character is feeling any single emotion, it will be sung about. If they must make some sort of decision on what is to be done, it will be the lyrics that reveal their plan. So if that sounds like something you might not enjoy, for heaven’s sake don’t bother.

For me, I had expected this to be a larger-than-life cinematic experience. While I’m not a musical connoisseur (not even close), I do appreciate something that moves me and takes me to another place which music can certainly do in the realm of film (and of course theatre). That being said, the opening sequence of several prisoners working as slaves pulling a massive ship into the dock was certainly magnificent. Soon however, it is clear that director Tom Hooper (THE KING’S SPEECH) had a different idea entirely when it came to bringing this musical to the silver screen.

With so many amazing set pieces and this massive cast, Hooper came up with a risky approach. Nearly every single moment in LES MISÉRABLES is a close-up or a medium shot. Never mind the scope of the decade spanning musical as the director went for the gesture or the tear. In what is far and away the most powerful scene, Fantine (beautifully portrayed by Hathaway) sings “I Dreamed a Dream” in what is one of the most emotionally charged cinematic moments of the year. Yet when he moved in close for the duet “In My Life/A Heart Full of Love” with Cosette and Marius (Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne) it lacks the unbridled passion presented by Ms. Hathaway.

The actors here all sang live as they shot the film which can be a mixed blessing as a few of the cast members can’t carry a tune quite as well as others. However, the little moments where Hugh Jackman or Anne Hathaway tear up and choke just a little bit, adds a world of passion to the non-lip-synced songs. The imperfection gives a layer of depth that it might not have had before. Many critics have attacked Russell Crowe’s singing – the actor is actually in a band called Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt so he is no stranger to music – and yes, it is not always up to par for this particular role. However, he and Jackman work well enough as lifelong enemies on opposite sides of the law make it work. But I still have to say… Come on man, get over it, the guy already spent 19 years doing hard labor for a frickin’ loaf of bread! Get the f*ck over it Javert! And yes, I do realize it is a different time and place, but damn Javert pissed me off.

My appreciation for LES MISÉRABLES as it was presented was an ebb and flow of emotion. The lack of scale at times frustrated me as I wanted to be overwhelmed by this story. Then again, out of nowhere, there would be a moment so pure and monumental that I’d connect instantly to its intimacy. In the end I connected very deeply to Hooper’s strangely compelling vision. The performances were uniformly strong, even if Crowe’s voice wasn’t necessarily the right fit for this type of musical. The themes of death, hope and the struggle to simply survive what these characters had to go through ultimately won me over.

On a final note, there is an irony that the two performances that really stand out are supporting roles with little screen time in this over two and a half hour long epic. Samantha Banks as Éponine is a major find. The actress has played the role on stage and it is clear that her transition to film was perfect. She is simply wonderful. And then there is Anne Hathaway. Yes, she is every bit as good as you’ve heard before. This is not only the best performance in the film, but one of the finest performances of the year. She will break your heart as Fantine. Can a single actor make a film that much more powerful? This one did it for me. Just give her the Academy Award now because this rich, emotional and devastating powerful performance deserves it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:00PM on 01/12/2013

JEFF ON MOVIES

JEFF GIVES HIS WHALE PRANKS REVIEW OF LES MISERABLES [link] I Don't think he liked it, *Spoiler Alert, Stay Alert and Stay Safe. And Check it out!
JEFF GIVES HIS WHALE PRANKS REVIEW OF LES MISERABLES [link] I Don't think he liked it, *Spoiler Alert, Stay Alert and Stay Safe. And Check it out!
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4:34PM on 12/27/2012
In regards to Javert, yes he is frustrating, but it is important to remember he is NOT the villain of the story. Just as many of the other characters live by a moral code or seek to serve 'the lord', etc., Javert is the same. He sees things in a very narrow way: the law and the morality it represents are all that matters ("the law is not mocked"), which explains why he believes Valjean cannot be changed or redeem himself; it's not about what Valjean *did*, moreover, he is a convict, and in
In regards to Javert, yes he is frustrating, but it is important to remember he is NOT the villain of the story. Just as many of the other characters live by a moral code or seek to serve 'the lord', etc., Javert is the same. He sees things in a very narrow way: the law and the morality it represents are all that matters ("the law is not mocked"), which explains why he believes Valjean cannot be changed or redeem himself; it's not about what Valjean *did*, moreover, he is a convict, and in Javert's eyes, always will be. Breaking his parole re-affirms this, so he pursues what he sees as legal and moral justice. To not punish Valjean would be anarchy, which is why he make the ultimate decision he does.
SPOILERS
Regarding his fate. He becomes so conflicted, as he realizes at the 11th hour, Valjean has redeemed himself and then some, and wouldn't even take his life in vengeance, throwing off Javert's balance and ideals. He cannot live without this assurance, because of his commitment to the law and the lord. His only option was to commit suicide.
END SPOILER.

While "Les MIs" is one looooonnnnggg show, the film captures the story beautifully. Certain numbers in particular were just so excellent; "At The End Of The Day", "Lovely Ladies", "Fantine's Arrest", "Master Of The House" and a few others nailed it. But the film delivers in succeeding what may be the *definitive* rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream", and Anne Hathaway's Fantine is a grueling exercise in heartbreak. She is too good in the part, and deserves every accolade she receives. Not enough wonderful things can be said about her work here. If anything, it solidifies her status as a superstar with depth and chops to spare, for anyone who ever doubted it.
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1:26AM on 12/27/2012

Justice is done to Les Miserables!

I was prepared to be (at least a little) disappointed...not sure what types of liberties might be taken in converting the musical to a movie. There are two reasons I decided to go: excellent critical reviews, and a great story that so obviously should translate to any genre (musical, movie, book) unless some idiot screws it up. No screw-ups here!

Rest assured, dialogue is not added, songs are not cut out. Yes, the movie really is as good as the musical! (Or as close as possible without the
I was prepared to be (at least a little) disappointed...not sure what types of liberties might be taken in converting the musical to a movie. There are two reasons I decided to go: excellent critical reviews, and a great story that so obviously should translate to any genre (musical, movie, book) unless some idiot screws it up. No screw-ups here!

Rest assured, dialogue is not added, songs are not cut out. Yes, the movie really is as good as the musical! (Or as close as possible without the true live energy of a theatre.)

If you worry the WORLD'S BEST MUSICAL might be degraded by the addition of a movie set and cinematography, don't be! The movie comes very close to the musical, true to the highly-charged emotional experience of the original. EXCELLENT, FANTASTIC, AND HEART-WRENCHING!

The acting was generally excellent, though yes, SLIGHTLY flat by the three male leads (more so the actor who played Maris, the love interest of Cosette). The casting was very good, the direction excellent!

Anne Hathaway was a superb choice to play Fantine. As others mentioned, she steals the show at her death, both by her acting and her musical performance. In spite of her death barely 1/3 into the movie, she remains the "real" star, same as the musical.

The audience was enthralled, and as soon as the credits started rolling, the theatre erupted with applause. Then I laughed when I saw one of the names...Sacha Baron Cohen? (Of the comedy/fake documentary "(something) of America for Make Benefit Beautiful Nation of Kazakstan".) Ah, he must have been the innkeeper! (Yes, he was.) Excellent choice, and a definite surprise.

I'm a little surprised at the sharp criticism of Russell Crowe...I saw the musical 25 years ago, and I noticed nothing amiss. True, memories fade with time, but one would have to literally be listening to the original soundtrack before going and comparing each song in detail to have a complaint! They may not be Broadway stars, but they come pretty darn close! EXCELLENT JOB WITH THE SINGING, AND THE "LIVE" PERFORMANCES!

The only MINOR quibble I have is the lack of an intermission. The second third of this movie (from Fantine's death to the start of the French Revolution) seems to drag a little for this reason. Fans of the original musical may want to make a quick run to the bathroom after Maris finds Cosette's house and they sing their duet, if you must go but don't want to miss details you've forgotten.

Ideally, hit the bathroom during the previews...I think they lasted 10-15 minutes! Added to the movie time, that's 2:50; you'll need it!

"Les Miserables" as a movie is something I never contemplated, but whether you saw the musical or not, YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS IT! If you're too young to have seen the musical, now you can see the next best thing.

If you see nothing else this year, this is THE ONE MOVIE YOU DEFINITELY MUST SEE!
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12:22PM on 12/26/2012
Saw it last night. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Even Russell was better than expected. The structure of the story was presented much better than in the stage production with many nods and scenes from Victor Hugo's novel added. 10/10
Saw it last night. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Even Russell was better than expected. The structure of the story was presented much better than in the stage production with many nods and scenes from Victor Hugo's novel added. 10/10
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9:39AM on 12/24/2012
I really want to see this, and excited to see it this weekend. Great review!
I really want to see this, and excited to see it this weekend. Great review!
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4:55AM on 12/24/2012

Awful film

Horribly shot, horribly directed, and for every wonderful performance there's one that sinks it. Crowe is visibly uncomfortable, his voice is dreadful, and he often seems to forget he's supposed to be acting. Jackman, on the other hand, cranks it up to 11 and stays there, frantically bleating his way through his numbers in the most earnest Oscar grab I've seen in years. Hooper is a lousy director. Middlebrow shit. Shame, the source material is quite cinematic. This looks like a TV movie. No
Horribly shot, horribly directed, and for every wonderful performance there's one that sinks it. Crowe is visibly uncomfortable, his voice is dreadful, and he often seems to forget he's supposed to be acting. Jackman, on the other hand, cranks it up to 11 and stays there, frantically bleating his way through his numbers in the most earnest Oscar grab I've seen in years. Hooper is a lousy director. Middlebrow shit. Shame, the source material is quite cinematic. This looks like a TV movie. No scale, scope, sweep, or ambition.
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1:11AM on 12/24/2012
Though this is my favorite movie site, I honestly didn't expect any love for musicals on it. This makes me even more excited for my second most anticipated movie of the year (behind Hobbit)

I'll be there Christmas day!
Though this is my favorite movie site, I honestly didn't expect any love for musicals on it. This makes me even more excited for my second most anticipated movie of the year (behind Hobbit)

I'll be there Christmas day!
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1:07AM on 12/24/2012
As a lifelong fan of the stage musical, I must say that the Les Miserables film was a thing of beauty, glad you enjoyed it, JimmyO. Nevermind Tom Hooper overcompensating for the fact that you can't have closeups on stage (almost every shot was right in the actors' face). There's a lot of grit and grime, but also a lot of honest emotion and terrific performances from a uniformly impressive cast. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was especially good, and Anne Hathaway's Fantine was utterly heartbreaking.
As a lifelong fan of the stage musical, I must say that the Les Miserables film was a thing of beauty, glad you enjoyed it, JimmyO. Nevermind Tom Hooper overcompensating for the fact that you can't have closeups on stage (almost every shot was right in the actors' face). There's a lot of grit and grime, but also a lot of honest emotion and terrific performances from a uniformly impressive cast. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was especially good, and Anne Hathaway's Fantine was utterly heartbreaking. I'm also really glad they had the original stage Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, cameo as the Bishop of Digne in a respectful nod.

Also, Marius, you fool. Poor 'Ponine.
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12:57AM on 12/24/2012

Best Actress for Anne Hathaway?

It used to be that the Best Actress award was given out to pay tribute to all the work that an actress did for the whole year. Later the award was given out for a single performance because that way a film could have been said to have won the "Best Actress" award. In any case, if Anne Hathaway gets nominated then we could honestly say that the actress who played Catwoman in TDKR was nominated for an Academy award.
It used to be that the Best Actress award was given out to pay tribute to all the work that an actress did for the whole year. Later the award was given out for a single performance because that way a film could have been said to have won the "Best Actress" award. In any case, if Anne Hathaway gets nominated then we could honestly say that the actress who played Catwoman in TDKR was nominated for an Academy award.
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1:05AM on 12/24/2012
I think she will be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Hugh Jackman for Best Actor - though I think he probably will lose to Daniel Day Lewis.
I think she will be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Hugh Jackman for Best Actor - though I think he probably will lose to Daniel Day Lewis.
3:00AM on 12/24/2012
In 2008, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in Rachel Getting Married
In 2008, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in Rachel Getting Married
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