It’s taken over twenty-five years for Les Miserables to make it to the big screen, and it doesn’t disappoint, says The Daily Shift’s Katy Quinn…
When Les Miserables opened on stage twenty-seven years ago, it was reviewed by critics as being ‘unrealistic’ and ‘deeply depressing’. Personally, I’d like to see where those critics are now, since they made possibly the biggest mistake of their careers in dismissing Les Miserables as another musical flop.
Not only is it one of the longest running musicals in the West End, but now it has conquered Hollywood. We have the original producer of the stage production, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, to thank. From the opening notes of the Overture right down to the finale, this movie, despite the titl,e is guaranteed to astound audiences the world over.
The original 1,200-page classic by Victor Hugo follows a prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has been incarcerated for twenty years following the minor offence of stealing bread to save his sister’s son. He breaks his parole and is then pursued by the determined lawman Javert (Russell Crowe) who is determined to put him back in chains for this offence. After attempting to steal from a kind bishop (played by the original West End Jean Valjean and Ireland’s own Colm Wilkinson) Valjean is struck by how the bishop forgives him and he resolves to reform and become a better man who puts his faith in God.
Years later we see him as mayor and a prominent business man. However, one of his workers Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is fired from his factory after he allowed the foreman to deal with an altercation and she falls on hard times, turning to prostitution. Feeling guilty for having caused her destitution and subsequent death, Valjean goes to retrieve her daughter from the dishonest and corrupt innkeepers the Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and raise her as his own. He flees to Paris where he is still relentlessly pursued by Javert and must live in secret. Years later, the grown Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) falls in love with a student Marius (Eddie Redmayne), who is fighting in a revolution against the corrupt French government of 1832. The daughter of the Thenardier’s, Eponine (Samantha Barks) is hopelessly in love with Marius and desperately tries to make him notice her, to no avail.
There you have it, the overall plot of Les Miserables, and before you start thinking how it would take a lifetime to cram this into one movie, it is done beautifully, covering two and a half hours without anything important being left out. As for the fact that it is all singing, a fact I had omitted when persuading my better half to go with me, put that out of your head as a negative point right now. Director Tom Hooper’s style is to have his actors sing live on set rather than be pre-recorded which makes each song more heartfelt and realistic; as if anybody would just burst into song if the moment was right.
Anne Hathaway’s rendition of I Dreamed a Dream left not one dry eye in the house, apart from most of the men, and Russell Crowe astounded me by having a lovely soft, easy-listening voice. I must admit I cried myself during the finale when Hugh Jackman is finally at peace with all of the students who gave their lives to France and their beliefs.
There is no doubt that this has to be his Oscar-winning performance. Indeed, all of the nominees should think themselves privileged to be considered in the same category as Hugh Jackman and it’s inconceivable that anyone else will win. Between make-up, costume and set design this movie fails in nothing and as for casting choices, thre is not one I would change. All in all, I’m going to see it again tonight because I simply cannot get enough and I would urge you to book your tickets because failing to see this masterpiece on the big screen would be a crime.