Les Misérables (2012) Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. IMDB says: “In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.”
I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to gush about how this IS the picture of the year and that every performance is award worthy. I wanted to tell you that Tom Hooper won me over with his spectacular visuals and impeccable direction.
What I will tell you is Les Miserables is a gorgeous film that has enough breathtaking moments to keep you interested, but not enough to get you invested in the characters or their story. It’s a problem that plagues you throughout the movie and hampers some, not all, of the musical numbers. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Huttlestone, Samantha Barks, and a vast cast of extras, all turn in solid performances but they go almost unnoticed because of the lack of character depth and loss of interest in the characters.
I won’t lie, the first twenty minutes I was nothing but goose bumps and near tears as we meet Jean Valjean (Jackman) and Fantine (Hathaway) for the first time and follow them on their journeys. But the goose bumps fade as we jump character to character with enough interaction for exposition, but not enough to care. Did I mention they sing the whole film? Yeah, there’s no dialog, it’s song, and I think somewhere in the sing-song dialog, information and emotional attachment doesn’t come across as strong as it could.
No matter how you feel about the film, it’s still groundbreaking in the sense that all the vocals were recorded on the spot. They didn’t mouth along to a pre-recorded track, Hooper said action and Hugh Jackman would sing proclaiming he is Jean Valjean. To do this, actors wore tiny earpieces in their ears that played a piano version of the score to keep them in time and in key. Then in post-production, they added the orchestral accompaniment to the actors performance.
I plan on seeing this a few more times because it feels like a movie that could grow on you after a while. If you want to experience the grand scale of the film, definitely check it out in theatres, but if you’re more interested in intimate and powerful performances, Netflix or VOD it.