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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hugh Jackman stars as embittered parole-breaking 19th century French
ex-convict Jean Valjean turned benevolent factory owner and wealthy
town mayor Monsieur Madeleine, adopting and raising a child from the
slums of Paris while evading re-imprisonment at the hands of police
inspector Javert (played by Russell Crowe) during the rise of France's
post-Revolution 1832 June Rebellion, in this surprisingly undercooked
but visually impressive stage-to-screen adaptation of Brit stage
producer Cameron Mackintosh's 1985 English version of Alain Boublil and
Claude-Michel Schonberg's 1980 French musical based on famed French
writer Victor Hugo's 1862 novel Les Miserables. Yes, all the characters
are French, yet they all have British accents here. #odd
Both Jackman and Anne Hathaway pull in incredibly disarming stellar performances here. Hathaway plays emotionally shattered fired factory worker Fantine who falls into prostitution to continue supporting her estranged and impoverished young daughter Cosette - the famed poster child of Les Miserables, played here by feature first timer Isabelle Allen. It's literally gob-smacking how effortlessly Jackman and Hathaway elevate this theatrical work beyond its big screen flaws and oftentimes relentless lyrical dialog to a superior cinematic level of characterization during their scenes. Top marks also go to cinematographer Danny Cohen for capturing those master class moments. Awesome!
However, there's a dilemma. Those performances are exceptionally wonderful and probably wouldn't have been seen otherwise, but the film Les Miserables as a whole has problems. The storytelling is weak and disjointed. Primary supporting characters are barely fleshed-out. Deeper motivations are oversimplified or glossed over, as though you don't need this movie to actually tell you what's going on or why you should care. How, for instance, does Javert, a prison guard in the opening scenes, become transferred as a policeman to Valjean's tiny grubby town later on? Was he fired? Reincarnated? Does it matter? Has anyone here read the book? Quick, Google SparkNotes! Hush, another crying big face is singing on-screen:
I dreamed a dream this film was prime; My hopes were high but then (sniffle,) I saw it...
I realize this picture is adapted from the hugely successful, self-proclaimed longest-running stage musical to date, where large portions of Victor Hugo's richly detailed manuscript were likely already chopped out or shorthanded to accommodate the songs while offering a run-time those in the loge would sit through nightly, but Crowe specifically was robbed here. Compared to Jackman, it's fairly obvious that Crowe was either given little more than a stock heavy's wisp of a character outline to work with beyond the wardrobe and tunes or the majority of what this hugely capable screen actor poured into his purposefully antagonistic role ultimately fell victim to overindulgent deletion in editing. Maybe he should have cried more to gain scenes, I don't know. Co-cast members Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, and newcomer Samantha Barks aren't treated much better throughout, as adult Cosette, her love Marius, and his secret admirer Eponine respectively. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen appear to be the only other survivors, hamming it up all teeth and elbows through their comedic relief scenes as The Thenardiers.
The blame for how poorly cobbled this offering of wasted opportunities is over-all lays squarely in the lap of director Tom Hooper, who obviously couldn't be bothered to earn his paycheck using the wealth of his entire cast's talent matched with the power of filmmaking to balance out what came from the stage production, and over-ride screenwriter William Nicholson's clear inability (or fear) to reintroduce elements from Hugo's original material to make this movie something more - oh, I dunno - appropriately cinematic: Solid story. Strong plot points. Rich characters. Compelling dialog. Little things like that. Something more than adding mud and horses to the mix. Hooper might as well have had Cohen shoot the London musical on-set/location without these parachuted celebs. Barks' reprised Eponine, and Colm "Broadway/West End Valjean" Wilkinson's Bishop of Digne cameo aside, at least that stage cast could have enjoyed a cut of the film's 61 million USD budget. After-all, they were good enough at playing their roles to make the show so popular for so long that UK studio Working Title Films came a-knocking, right?
Comparing movie to movie - and there are many film versions of Hugo's "Les Miz" to choose from - just check out the four-time Oscar-nominated Les Miserables (1935) starring Fredric March as Valjean and Charles Laughton as Javert. That classic's adapted from Hugo's novel; it's not a musical, but watch it and you'll immediately realize how outrageous the hype for this comparably empty, prolonged music video of catchy tunes and missed notes truly is.
Sure musical-lovers, go see Les Miserables if taking in a star-studded matinée version of the internationally renowned stage musical suits your budget better than buying tickets to the actual theatrical production might (if available.) At 157 minutes in length, it's also probably faster seeing it than reading Hugo's novel. Just don't be surprised if - beyond the memorable tunes, amazing sights and incredible performances from Jackman and Hathaway - you spend most of this screening wishing for far more developed supporting characters and fundamentally cohesive storytelling normally expected at the movies, and you realize maybe you should have read the book or seen another film version of Les Miserables beforehand. Or, instead. Reviewed 12/12, © Stephen Bourne.
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Went to see this on opening night with an open mind. Having never seen
the play, I was really excited to see it. Based on the previews, it
looked really good and the music sounded amazing.
First off, I really liked the movie, however, the singing was a different matter. Although the story was very interesting, and I must admit, slow in parts, I couldn't get beyond the singing. Why the director chose to have these actors sing live is beyond me when they can't even sing in the first place.
Additionally, all these close ups of the actors singing really got me against the wall. The movie was shot as if the singing was the highlight of every scene, but why on earth would you allow these so call singers to try and hit these high notes when they can't. To me, it just ruins the whole scene. The director could've easily had the actors croon to their abilities without pushing them to mess up when they had to hit the high note.
That's not to say all the singing was horrible. Ann Hathaway did a decent job of singing and so did the girl who played Eponine, and also when the singing was in a group. Aside from that, Russell Crowe couldn't sing to save his life and, although, Hugh Jackman could unleash a vibrato, his singing was so off, I couldn't help but noticed it, although his acting was superb.
Readers who have an ear for music will agree that the singing was mediocre at best, but if you don't, fortunately for you, the movie was all that much better. Unfortunately, for me, the singing brought the movie down to a four star. After all, this is a musical just as much as it is a story, but if the music doesn't sound good, then it takes away from the story as it did for me.
Now, I'll just have to go see the play where they'll cast characters that can actually sing the part.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Full disclosure, in my opinion the 1998 version with Liam Neeson a near
perfect telling of this story.
This version is not my kind of musical, and I know this will likely annoy those who like the sage version, but there are only 3 songs in this entire film as far as I can tell, they keep returning to three different themes for every number.
Some of the camera work is pretty poor, losing focus, and having to fix a few camera moves in post that were a little jarring. I get the feeling that it had to do with the way they filmed the singing.
And I feel that with the exception of Cosette (young and old) the whole thing was pretty horribly miscast.
I was happy to watch the annoying members of the French Revolution get killed in the street.
First off let me preface this by saying I have never seen the stage production. Having said that I was thrilled beyond belief to see this story unfold in front of me on the silver screen. As the story progressed I continued to be unnerved by the choices in camera angles, framing and slow focus pulls. As a film student who knows what a challenge it is to achieve crisp focus in scenes and have had to cut great footage because it is too soft to use am embarrassed. I am baffled why the director made certain choices, and I am not really sure who is at fault but it prevented me from me being able to enjoy this film. If you are not troubled by out of focus shots or cramped in your face framing then you might enjoy this film. I however expect such an esteemed director to not settle for anything less than perfection and as moviegoer's we should not either. Les Mis was miserable!!
Just seen Les Miserables and came out of it shaking with rage. How dare they reduce the greatest musical ever made to this pile of absolute s***. The only bearable bits I found were Russel Crowe, because he actually decided that acting was a good idea, and Eponine, but even then she lacked the power and strength of voice to sing the part. If I were to pinpoint all that was wrong with the movie I'd be here longer than the show's been around. And Hugh Jackman, you have no excuse. You are a musical theatre actor and you have brought shame upon yourself and your profession for your lack of vocal control (meaning his huge sodding vibrato) and your decision to NOT even bother with any acting. Any half-wit can shed a tear and make his eyes water. My advice, GO SEE THE MUSICAL! You won't want to tear your eyes out and plug your ears. Shame on you Cameron Mackintosh.
Firstly, if Tom Hooper wanted to make the musical more like Victor
Hugo's novel, then he should have just adapted the novel. The changes
here from the musical work against the movie's favor because they turn
the fantastical into the mundane.
Secondly, recording all the songs live on the set is certainly impressive, but as an audience member it felt like it reduced the ability of the songs and the music to convey the emotion of the scene. In a musical, the emotions come from the songs, and when a song is sung in a slobbery whisper the emotions are muted, no matter how well or realistically the actor is crying.
Thirdly, the on-set recording also constricted the camera's ability to capture wide shots. This created a claustrophobic feeling and for a musical with as grand a story as Les Miserables this was a huge problem. It also made each song look and feel the same, which is a real problem for a musical like this where every line of dialogue is sung. It gets tedious very quickly.
Fourthly, I don't think Hugh Jackman can sing the part of Jean Valjean. "Bring Him Home" kind of falls off the mark from every other version I've seen. Acting-wise, sure, but this is a musical and I had a hard time buying him. Plus, that new song "Suddenly" is a bore and was certainly made and inserted solely for a chance at an Oscar.
Fifthly, the stage actors, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras and Samantha Barks as Eponine, are terrific. They carry their songs with confidence and ease. They were a pleasure to watch and listen to. It's a shame their great parts were reduced for the more famous members of the cast.
Lastly, I can't hate this. I love the stage show too much and despite this feeling completely different I still watch it from time to time.
Most people may not be good at spotting this but if your social circle
includes actual singers you'll know what I'm referring to. The acting
was good but the vocals killed the movie for me. It was also a little
too slow for my personal taste. The movie score itself was obviously
superb, can't really argue about that.
On a side note: as others eluded the actual musical (the original) is superior in almost every aspect. But if you're into "mediocre singing" this movie might be just what you're looking for (it sure made me cringe a couple of times when Russel Crowe opened his mouth).
Final remark: sometimes more is more (especially when it comes to post-production editing in terms of the audio).
p.s. not all vocal performances were equally bad. Some were OK but sadly Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman's performances undermined the entirety of the few good performances, I'm afraid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before seeing this movie, I'd heard of Les Miserables, but never knew
what it was about. Wow! Very interesting story. It's sad, but with a
title like Les Miserables, I don't know how one can expect anything
Now, I have to share my opinion regarding the choices for the production of this movie. I could rant on and on about how a city full of French people sound like their English because an English accent is apparently the default accent for anyone who isn't American. Sure, that's annoying, but I had bigger concerns.
I felt that this movie had some serious casting issues. Les Miserables is supposed to be an opera. The people who were cast in this movie are NOT opera singers and didn't show in any way that they were capable of singing in an opera. That isn't to say that the actors and actresses can't sing. I know some of them can, like Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. But they don't have the voices needed to pull this type of singing off.
After watching this, I decided that I had to see a live production. A few months later, I got my chance. I was blown away by the talent on the stage. But this talent just further emphasized the shortcomings of the actors in the movie. They would have been fine if they were just acting in a regular movie, but they weren't. At times, it was if they were acting while they were singing, such as in "I Dreamed a Dream." It isn't exactly pleasing to the ears when I had to hear Hathaway cry while she sang. I couldn't even understand all of the words at first. Points to her for good acting, though.
The only members of the main cast who sounded as if they had the chops to do this the way it's supposed to be done were Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit. I know Barks played Eponine in the 2010 version of Les Miz. She was phenomenal then and phenomenal in this. The guard at the barricades who spoke to the rebels after Gavroche died also sounded as if he was supposed to be in this movie. Excluding Colm Wilkinson as the bishop (he was the original Valjean on Broadway), the other cast members seemed as if they should have been replaced with lesser- known actors who actually have the range to do this kind of singing.
Anyways, I had to get that off my chest. I only gave this movie a 6 because I liked the story, and I've read about how hard the actors worked on it. I'll always appreciate that it opened my eyes to the world of Les Miz, but I've preferred basically every other version of Les Miz's songs over the ones in the movie.
I have been a big fan of Les Miserables since I was very young. I
remember watching the 10th Anniversary concert on PBS as a kid and just
being blown away by the singing, the music, and the story. I became so
transfixed by it that I had my mom buy me the unabridged version of Les
Miserables by Victor Hugo and read the whole thing .... twice.
With all that being said, I was really excited to see this movie. The previews made it look great. I had seen the last version of Les Miserables with Liam Neeson and had been thoroughly disappointed afterwards, especially with the ending. I was really hoping that this one would take the ending further, like the concert does. On that aspect - I was not disappointed at all. The production, the visuals, the costumes, it was all very good. I loved the ending, and I loved the cameo by Colm Wilkenson at the beginning (who played Valjean in the musical). What I did not like was the singing. Yes, they inserted some great big actors to get interest ... but they can't sing worth anything. They can sing better than I can, but when you watch the concert and then you watch this, the songs feel somewhat ... emptier. I was highly disappointed that the casting decision had been aimed more at big names than actual musical talent. Songs that are supposed to be overwhelmingly powerful have been reduced so much that almost none of the emotion you want to feel can possibly be expressed, due to the lack of both the vocal range and the vocal power of the actors.
It was a good try .... I suppose for those that never watched the concert it would be very enjoyable. For us life-long fans ... not so much. I am going to stick with the 10th anniversary concert.
When it comes to Broadway musicals and basically theater in general
ranging from opera to Shakespeare. It's the form of storytelling I
haven't really been as immersed into as films, books, TV Shows and even
video games from time to time. I can see why people enjoy it, it's just
as someone who spent 2 years being in the orchestra of a really
amateurish theater group I am not really apt to sit down and watch them
when I really know nothing about the scene of what's good and what's
not in the area I live in aside from the one amateurish group. So, I
decided to use this movie as a jumping on point to arguably one of the
top 5 most celebrated musicals ever. For me, I may watch a stage
version... However, I didn't really like this.
Okay so the plot (and also a big problem) Jean Valjean is a criminal who stole a loaf of bread, this catches the attention of Javert, a guardsman who becomes obsessed and to say he's strict about the law is an understatement. He gets his parole but he can't get work because he's unfairly judged, he then finds peace when he enters a church and attempts to steal silver but the priest lies when they catch him doing it and this causes Valjean to change his ways. 8 years later he's mayor for an unexplained reason and in a factory he almost settles a dispute because of a worker trying support her kid but gets distracted by Javert visiting which causes the worker in turn to get fired and sell everything of hers including hair, teeth and eventually herself. Javert has suspicions about Valjean but catches a false Valjean but then the real Valjean clears up his name and he meets the fired worker in his factory and he promises to take care of her child and dies. He decides to do this by taking her from thieves who take advantage of the fact that she can work and they evade capture by Javert, then the movie skips 9 years and we're only in the first third of the movie... I'll stop now, I think you get the point.
Okay, the story has too much plot in it! I heard this is supposed to be a musical of heart but the filmmakers seem adamant to try and keep everything in AND a song to get them a "Best Original Song" Nomination. I'm not a fan of this musical in the sense that this is the only version I've seen but while it's not hard to follow the characters don't even stop to build on their character enough to have me care, leaving us with 2 and a half hours of the broadest possible brush you can give any character. Sometimes the actors do pull through something for me to latch onto in terms of a dramatic moment but it's nothing concrete except for Anne Hathaway as Fantine (who by the way has only 12 minutes of screen time). Either way, I think in order for development and caring to come through they should have cut stuff out.
Okay, what else? The live singing at times hurts the music. I like the music for the most part (in the sense I hated the original song they put in) and I just think they should have recorded singing multiple times because while there are okay notes being hit, more often then not I think "They really should have done that twice". I also don't like the cinematography and editing. The cinematography especially considering the locations they got and how good it SHOULD look has some insane insistence on using close-ups and shaky-can. Close-ups that quite frankly I believe a Dentist would be able to tell what condition their teeth are in and also able to tell how long ago it was since the male cast members last shaved, the shaky cam combined with this should be self explanatory as to why I don't like it and the editing is the "It moves so fast I can't see anything" type. it gets worse as the movie goes on though.
So what did I like. Well despite the plot needing a huge cut down I do like the story, I think the actors do well and I quite enjoyed the music even if I didn't enjoy the singing 100% of the time. So in a way this movie has convinced me to see other, better versions of the musical adaption. I'd say this is something to miss if you haven't already seen the play and even then I'd suggest seeking out other versions. While it has good elements a lot drags the movie down.
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