Starring: Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Amanda Seyfried (In Time), Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn)
Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Runtime: 2 hours 38 minutes
Release Date: 25 December (US), 11 January (UK)
Les Miserables is part of an endangered species: the musical. A genre still prosperous on stage, but not so much on screen. With a talented team behind it, does this film prove that musicals are still relevant, or does it support the extinction argument?
As with the stage original, this is a very truncated version of Victor Hugo’s classic tale; almost like cliffnotes set to music. The story is both incredibly simple and needlessly complicated, making it easy to catch the broad strokes but still leave you confused. As an adaption of the stage version, it’s pretty accurate but of course certain things change. Certain songs have been cut, but some new ones have been put in, and those songs are pretty pointless. The film is incredibly long and dragged out enough as it is; we didn’t really need any new material.
This is much more of an actor’s film than any previous musical, and here plenty of actors get their time to shine. Jackman is great as Valjean, portraying the conflict constantly running through this man incredibly well. Crowe has gotten a lot of flack from some people, but I thought he was fine. He can’t really stand up to anyone else musically, but on an acting level he nails it. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide some great comic relief, even if they are again playing the sort of roles they always play. Redmayne and Seyfried are serviceable and never really stand out, but don’t ruin the proceedings. But the standout is Hathaway, giving what could be her career-defining performance. A win at the Oscars is almost guaranteed, and rightly so.
Where Les Miserables really falters is in its aesthetic choices. Tom Hooper is a good director, but his style doesn’t always gel with the musical genre. His tendency to frame his shots with the actors in the corner gets annoying after he does it for the twenty-seventh time, and he keeps things in such shallow focus that you can’t always appreciate the artistry in the sets and costumes. The editing is also incredibly choppy, especially during any scenes involving action. It’s not quite Greengrass or Bay bad, but it’s still annoying. The music, as you’d expect, is great but it’s not done in the traditional manner; the film really emphasises the grim nature of the story and strays away from the traditional jolly tone of other musicals.
Les Miserables is a good movie. Is it Best Picture worthy? Hell no. But it’s still worth your time purely based on Hathaway’s performance. There are dozens of directors who probably would have been a better choice to direct this than Hooper, but it doesn’t damage the movie too much.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10