Thanks to Universal Pictures, we had the chance to see Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film – but as usual – no matter what we say; we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because: There is no better critic than yourself!
Les Miserables is an epic tale of grandeur portion as it tells the sombre story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who has served close to two decades for stealing a loaf of bread and when finally released, is far from free as he is shunned by society, having no choice but to continue living a life of crime in order to survive. That is until the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) offers Valjean shelter, kindness and support, something for which has been unfamiliar to Valjean. Showing his gratitude to the Bishop, Valjean redeems himself, forming a new identity as a good natured, wealthy factory owner and much loved mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. But his former prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe), now turned police inspector, discovers him and insists on turning him in, for Javert upholds the belief that once a criminal, always a criminal. This sparks a cat and mouse chase lasting another two decades. Yet in the meantime, upon the dying wishes of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who Valjean inadvertently done wrong by, raises Fantine’s beautiful daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), freeing her from a life of squalor and opening the doors to a whole other plot, where revolution is on the brink, social inequality and injustice escalating, and love brewing between the beautiful Cosette and the besotted, wealthy, revolutionary idealist, Marius (Eddie Redmayne).
It is hard to leave the cinema not impressed by the scale of this production in terms of story, its execution and the star-studded cast. There is definitely a lot to enjoy from the film, but it doesn’t come easy. This isn’t your average musical, it’s more of an opera, with barely any speech. But once you get use to it, you get sucked in and will be left amazed by the casts performance and understand why Hugh Jackman is so highly revered as a showman, he is incredibly convincing. Interestingly, it does take some time to warm up to Russell Crowe singing, even though he has done musicals earlier on in his career, he is a household name for his masculinity and it is hard to disassociate him as a person from his character, thus it comes somewhat as a surprise to hear such a fine, delicate, baritone voice come from him. Nevertheless he is perfect to play Javert and a nice contrast to Valjean.
With such wonderful vocals, it is fascinating to know that the actors sing “live” as opposed to actors miming to vocals pre-recorded in post-production. This method is suppose to amp up the realism, and it does, with almost a stage like quality, but sometimes the heavy use of CGI opposes that realism. Although it may just be that I’m not always a fan of CGI! Nevertheless, the CGI marks that this is one massive production tackling a ginormous story in roughly 2 and a half hours and given so, it is not exempt from a few of the story lines falling short. For instance, Cosette’s and Marius’s love seems to be taken at face value, and is not as believable as Eponine’s (Samantha Bark) unrequited love for Marius, which seems to have depth.
Overall, the director Tom Hooper has definitely made a spectacle, which indulges itself as a tearjerker, with the occasional bouts of comic relief from the thoroughly entertaining Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the small-time swindlers who even steal the show. Then there is the young Daniel Huttlestone playing the street urchin Gavroche, whose energy and mischievousness is absolutely delightful. This is simply cinema at its most entertaining.
Les Miserables opens on Boxing day (Dec 26)