In high school, I was fortunate enough to see Les Miserables on Broadway. However, I didn’t remember anything and I think I might’ve fallen asleep. Complete transparency. Now however, I can redeem myself by catching the film and becoming familiar with it again.
Hugh Jackman carries the movie as Jean Valjean, a parolee who is on the run constantly from Russell Crowe’s Javert. Anne Hathaway makes an appearance as the down-on-her-luck Fantine. The story spans almost an entire lifetime, so trying to summarize the actual plot would be tricky. But it’s a story of love, loss, and standing up for what you believe in.
The ladies of this film are spectacular. Hathaway carries the first half of the film and her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was spectacular. Tragic really. In the second half, I was blown away by Samantha Barks who played Eponine, a woman who’s in love with a man who doesn’t love her back. She played Eponine in the Broadway show as well and this is her first foray into film but she was absolutely breathtaking. Her story, paired with the story of the revolution, gave the second half a strong emotional core which felt a little lacking in the first half.
The cinematography was outstanding and showcased the world in a way that a stage performance can’t. Especially during the revolution in the last half, the sweeping shots of the city gave us incredible perspective. I’ve read other reviews that complained of all the wide shots, but I didn’t mind. I appreciated the distance.
One other special thing to note… Many musicals these days record their soundtrack in a studio, so it feels overly produced. Les Miserables recorded the vocals live, so they’re actually acting and singing, often in one take. It felt real and raw and had you on the edge of your seat.
What didn’t work?
There are plenty of faults here, while on the whole I’d recommend this movie. One of my complaints is because of the medium. There is very little spoken dialogue so much of the movie is “sing-talking.” It’s hard to buy into the discussion when Jackman and Crowe are quickly singing to each other back and forth. It alienated me a bit as a viewer. And I also was a little letdown by Jackman and Crowe both. Wanted to like them both but I never really got the musical piece that showcased them well. Just me probably.
I also felt that the movie lacked the emotional punch in the gut that I wanted. There are some traumatic moments but I didn’t tear up until the final moments of the film. I always want to cry during a movie, it’s cathartic for me. And I felt a little disappointed that the heavy moments didn’t punch as hard as they should have.
I have to note that there were noisy people behind me and that the sound system in the theatre wasn’t surround-sound and both those factors might have removed me a bit from the movie, making it harder for me to become emotionally invested. Just had to be honest.
Les Miserables is a gorgeous film. It’s bright when it needs to be and dark at all the right moments. However it lacked the emotional punch I wanted. The female stars were incredibly captivating while the men were a little underwhelming to me. Overall, a fun trip but the 3-hour run time mixed with a medium that made be hard for some of you swallow might mean you’ll be a little dissatisfied.