Director: Tom Hooper
Since watching Les Miserables for the Oscars last year I am only now just watching it again which is extremely surprising to those who know me. When I like a film I go out and buy it as soon as possible so the fact that I still do not actually own the DVD (I’m borrowing my sister’s copy!) kind of says something about how I feel about it. I think my previous review was just overwhelmed by the fact that we finally had a big screen adaptation of one of my favourite stage musicals. The more I contemplate Tom Hooper’s adaptation the more I realize that my feelings towards the film have changed quite substantially since my first viewing. Indeed there is little that I actually still agree with in my previous review https://randomfilmmusings.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/les-miserables/
The music is still stunning but I often find the rearrangements jarring – this is most definitely because I’m just so used to the stage arrangements however. I understand the need for changes to lyrics (as mentioned previously Val Jean isn’t physically branded so the removal of those lyrics make complete sense) and some additions, a brief scene between Javert and Val Jean before the overturned cart.
You can feel the love and dedication of everyone involved in creating the best film they could to do justice to the epic story by Victor Hugo. I love the inclusion of numerous Les Mis actors from across the years – a real nod to not only their performances over the years but also to the fans of the musical who will recognize many of the faces in the background. Obviously the most recognizable is that of Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Val Jean, as the Bishop.
The costume design utilizes the costumes already associated with the story from the stage while at the same time creating a new look for the film. The film uses a slightly more muted color palette than the stage show but then it has the luxury of being able to do so. On stage the colors need to be more vibrant in order to be seen throughout the theatre. Key components of the iconic costumes have been kept and expanded upon like the iconic rosettes and Enjolras‘ jacket. Cosette’s clothing is sumptuous befitting her position as the Mayor’s daughter. The best costumes in my opinion are those of the Thenadiers, and probably the most complex as they are forever adding to their costumes with the various items lifted from their unsuspecting victims.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are hilarious as the Thenadiers, the much-needed comedic element in an otherwise fairly depressing story. They have excellent chemistry, each complimenting the other well. And as we all know from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton) they are both surprisingly good singers.
Despite some people saying he’s not the strongest singer in the cast I am still mightily impressed with Russell Crowe’s Javert. I love his approach to his songs. And his portrayal of the increasingly obsessed police officer intent on capturing Val Jean is magnificent.
I am still not enamored with either Eddie Redmayne or Aaron Tveit, as Marius and Enjolras respectively. And I remain adamant that Killian Donnelly would have made a much better Enjolras – he is an incredible performer, especially as Enjolras! It shouldn’t have mattered that he was an unknown in the film world as Hopper made the best decision for Eponine when he cast Samantha Barks (an as of then untested actress in the film world though obviously not within Les Mis on stage) She is stunning! You really feel every note of pain and longing in her voice. Her “Little Fall Of Rain” was one of the standout moments of the film and reduced me to even more of a blubbering wreck then I already was by that point.
“Hooper ably captures the squalor of Victor Hugo’s Paris, particularly in the early scenes that detail Fantine’s fall. Her plea for mercy, for some relief from the drudgery of her existence, is the most powerful moment in the film. It is a raw portrait of a woman in despair. For sheer emotion, no musical and very few films from recent years can match it.” (936, Ian Hayden Smith, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) Despite Anne Hathaway only being in the film for a short amount of time her nomination, and resulting win for Best Supporting Actress is so deserved. She is incredible – there is something so raw about her performance, which makes it all the more powerful. She really endeared the character to me which is a big thing coming from me because I have always found Fantine to be cloying and supremely annoying before. “I Dreamed a Dream” is without doubt one of the stand out numbers of the entire film for me.
I find myself less impressed with Hugh Jackman the more I think about his performance – I see more flaws in his Val Jean each time I watch the film which is something that I thought I would never say. I still feel that his rendition of “Bring Him Home” is one of the weakest numbers in the film, a fact that sits uncomfortably with me as that is my favourite number in the entire show … closely followed by “Do You Hear The People Sing?”
I waited the entire film for the epic barricade to appear. You would have thought given the scope of film compared to stage the barricades would have been immense but it is only in the final shots of the film that you get a barricade to rival the one of stage at The Queen’s Theatre. That final barricade is worth the wait however setting the stage for one of the most spine-tingling set pieces in film over the last few years. The final shots of all those who lost their lives during the revolution atop the breathtaking barricade are beautiful and rousing. I shall be singing “Do You Hear The People Sing?” for days afterwards safe in the knowledge that I would once again “join in their crusade” which is exactly how you should feel having seen Les Mis.