l e s m i s e r a b l e s
5th December 2012
Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway's Teeth
Love, jealousy, revenge, slavery, revolution. Sigh. Singing. Singing. Singing.
Way too much singing. The end.
Let's start by saying this film is really not my bag, aside from Moulin Rouge I do not like musicals, I don't want to go and see a musical at the theatre and I don't want to see a bunch of very talented actors proving they can sing but for you, dear Broken Shark follower(s), I sat through this. YOU are welcome.
In 19th century france, ex prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is trying to make a better life for himself, a life at all to be honest and also trying to escape the pursuit of callous and relentless policeman, Javert (Russell Crowe) who has pursued him for decades. Valjean manages to drag himself up to mayor of a small town and runs a factory where Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is fired and thrown out onto the street for keeping her illegitimate child, Cosette a secret. In a chance encounter with fantine where she has sold her hair, teeth (only the back teeth, clever girl, she kept those hollywood white front ones!) and is living as a prostitute, Valjean agrees to take care of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), who she believes will die without her and from here Valjean and Cosette's lives change forever. Cosette is destined to fall in love with revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Valjean will come to have his final showdown with the dreaded Javert.
Hugh Jackman is magnificent as Valjean. this is his movie. he knows it, we know it and, thank fuck, Hooper knows it. the scene where Valjean sings his soliliquey about being touched by God after the Bishop (Colm Wilkinson, a fan's favourite when he played valjean on the stage) saves him from the French fuzz is powewrful stuff and Jackman gives Valjean a gravitous coupled with a magnificent voice that sweeps you along. His scenes with Crowe are standout– as with the characters the actors are equally pitted against each other in presence although Jackman may just have the edge on the singing voice. Having not seen the play or read the book I have no idea what Javert is supposed to be like for diehards (mis-hards?) but I enjoyed Crowe's performance, his earnest face, singing his heart out, felt like a proud little boy at a school play, and how can you not love that? Anne Hathaway gives great Fantine and the staging of the scene where she becomes a prositiute was well handled and one where the choreography and singing came together well. I didn't love her I dreamed a dream number, felt a bit overwrought but that's probably the point ( cue millions of mis-hards running out of the room screaming or poised to troll me). Seyfried and Redmayne are gorgeous, lovely and sweet and tick all the boxes but it was Samantha Barks (Eponine) in this little trio who really stands out, expect to see more of her soon. Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen (HBC and SBC) are certainly having fun as the evil inn keepers, the Thenardiers, and provide some much needed light relief but this sometimes felt like they were in a totally different film. The scene where Valjean comes to collect Cosette is a case in point, SBC's mugging for the camera feels competely at odds with Jackman's earnest song about his intentions to look after Cosette and any time SBC and HBC appear, although you enjoy them, it just feels sharply contrasted to everything else. Another curiosity is Gavroche's cockney accent shouting' Vive la France' and calling people 'me dear', felt very odd aside all the French revolutionaries. the ending also felt like they could have spent on a few more extras to make it feel grander.
I know first hand from being in a cinema when people come out of these screenings sobbing and emotionally wracked that this film affects people in a powerful way and tom hooper has not disappointed the legions of les mis fans out there so he should certainly be commended for that. the story is an emotional rollercoaster and hooper has crafted a film that does have some grand moments but ultimately something was missing and for all of it's spectacle and emotional force, I was left wanting. Hooper's direction felt at times a bit confused and the extreme close ups used frequently left me feeling more detached from the characters. There is spectacle and scale here yes but it didn't move me in the same way Baz Luhrmann did in Moulin Rouge (the swooping city scenes are more than a little reminiscent of Moulin Rouge). I felt a strange detachment from most of the characters and although admittedly I did get swept along in it at times I never fully let go and became immersed in the story
Certainly there is a lot to be rewarded and applauded here and mis-hards will not be disappointed, everyone else will, at the very least, be entertained. I'm just pleased its over.