Les Misérables is a gargantuan effort

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Starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Rated PG.

In case you don’t already know it, Les Misérables is the French term for people dragged to this 157-minute date movie. It’s also the name of Victor Hugo’s 1,500-page novel, which has spawned at least 18 movies and TV productions in the past century, not counting the 1985 stage musical from Claude-Michel Schönberg and others, who saw their work go Anglo about five years later.

The gargantuan piece has been running somewhere ever since, and its most fervent fans probably consider it the greatest musical Andrew Lloyd Weber never wrote. Well, the music here also borrows liberally from Mozart, Disney cartoons, and, I think, Jethro Tull. And, like Weber, there is roughly one memorable melody for every seven songs; those only stick through cloying repetition. Most of the singing is in the monotonous recitativo style that links arias in real operas. The risible recitation barely stops in the version grandiosely cinematized by Tom Hooper, better known for human-scaled, Brit-centric work like The King’s Speech and The Damned United.

Unusually, Hooper asked all the actors to sing their own lines, live and on-set—a risk that paid off for Anne Hathaway, who kills, musically speaking. (The title of her big number, “I Dreamed a Dream”, says everything you need to know about the crushing literality of the libretto.) Hathaway’s consumptive Jeanne d’Arc character leaves behind adorable Cosette, eventually played by alien-eyed Amanda Seyfried. The child is adopted by Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who has been paroled after serving 19 years as a galley slave for stealing a loaf of bread. Still at sea is Russell Crowe, straining his voice, and dignity, as Inspector Javert, who just won’t back off on Dr. Richard Kimball—I mean, Monsieur Valjean.

There is some jarring, if necessary, comic relief provided by grungy pub rats played by Helena Bonham Carter and Francophile Sacha Baron Cohen, famous since Talladega Nights for admiring the home of “democracy, existentialism, and the ménage à trois”. Speaking of third wheels, good old Valjean starts to feel de trop after Cosette meets Marius (My Week With Marilyn ’s strong-voiced Eddie Redmayne), a student leader of the 1823 rebellion.

The movie spends its final hour at the barricades, and damned if you won’t feel you’ve done the same.

Watch the trailer for Les Misérables.

 

Comments (2) Add New Comment
Michelle
My goodness, I am so glad you know how to use a thesaurus! What big words you found!

It is clear you have no love for musical theatre nor did you come to this movie with an open mind. Whether you enjoyed this rendition of Les Mis or not, your purpose was to critique the movie...not the play that was written so long ago. Obviously, you have never seen or heard of it. It's quite famous, you know.
It's actually an opera, did you know that? The director asked them to sing their lines because the story demands it...or did you not see the horror that was Rent The Movie?
Did you know that the music is supposed to all sound similar, as it all follows the same melody? It makes the show become 1 piece of art not a collection of songs.
Did you know that all of this misery was written prior to Dr. Richard Kimball?
Have you even heard of this show before??

You didn't have to like the movie but you could have at least put an effort into reviewing it. What poor taste and poor writing this review was. Shame on you.
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18
Rating: +5
Kate
LesMIs....how I felt leaving the movie theatre. The voices were strained, sharp or flat pitched with the exception of the spot on vocals of Eddie Redmayne. Sadly the last chorus was the best of the movie. I did appreciate the one scene of sunshine...everything else was just one long scene after another. Phanton of the Opera, Grease had thrilling and varied songs....they don't have to sound alike. And Russell Crowe so wrong for the part aside from his unnatural operatic sounding voice. If you like expansive, dirty cinematography you will most like the movie and over look the fact it is a musical.
14
18
Rating: -4
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