One hundred and fifty years ago, Victor Hugo wrote the novel for ??Les Miserables?? and it has been told and retold many ways and in many fashions. This film version has been in the works for almost as long as the story spans in years. That would be thirty. The sweeping scope and scale of its premise, I would guess are not the reason for the delay, but the method of story-telling was most likely polarizing and some movie studio finally said, ??Oh, why not.??
This version is like no other. It is a reflection of the stage musical, in which everything is sung. Dialogue and songs are blended together. To make things even trickier, much of the movie was filmed and portrayed live. The music was played on set and the actors were saddled with singing the songs without cuts and bringing the required emotion to it, as actors. At times, this technique is brilliant and beautiful, and at times the risk of this technique rears its ugly head. One thing can be said, this is an incredibly gutsy attempt at filmmaking by director Tom Hooper and there are moments so gut-wrenching and emotional they leave you breathless.
Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried are actors who are meant for the stage. The casting of these three actor/actress?? is none short of brilliant. Anne Hathaway??s portrayal of Fantine is perfect and her performance of the popular song, ??I Dreamed a Dream?? is so good, you hang on every word of it, feeling every drenching gasp of her emotions. Amanda Seyfried??s portrayal of Cosette is simply defined by her method of singing. Her voice is full of a rare combination of soul, peace and beauty, exactly what Cosette should be. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a man who spent 19-years in prison for stealing bread for his dying sister. There is really nothing to be said about his performance, other than brilliant. He was meant for this.
I would be amiss not to mention Eddie Redmayne as well for his performance as Marius Pontmercy. Much has been said publicly and nationally about the other three stars in this film, but Pontmercy holds his own along-side Hathaway, Jackman and Seyfried.
??Les Miserables?? is gifted with beautiful voices, but at times, as an audience member, you become aware of the length of the movie. There are many songs that sound alike and much of the time when the actors are singing their dialogue, it all sounds the same and monotonous. There are moments in this film that are absolutely epic in scale and simplicity and there are moments that will drag you down to snooze land.
??Les Miserables?? is not for the moviegoer who thinks they would like to try and see if they like musicals. If you don??t typically like musicals or musical theatre, you will most likely not enjoy it. Although if you do, you will want to trudge through some of the heavier and slower parts of this movie to get to the moments of greatness that occur. When movies are sung, especially ones like this where it is 100% sung, that means that every single emotion and plot point are fleshed out and explored to the hilt, for four or five minutes. Some of those plot points are less interesting or less vital than others. The ones that are vital though are worth wading through the others.