Les Miserables... The Movie Review...
Les Miserables The Movie Review…
Long before the movie Les Miserables was released... we heard the critics’ kudos for Anne Hathaway’s (Fantine) performance and it is not that I do not think that Hathaway has the requisite acting chops (see my review of her stellar performance in The Dark Knight Rises)… but if I am to be objective… Les Miserables is an Amanda Seyfried’s (Corsette) movie. It is true that Hathaway’s character sets the tone and the foundation for Seyfried’s character since the former plays the mother of the latter.
For those who do not know about the plot of Victor Hugo's, Les Miserables… it takes place during the French Revolution and commences with Hugh Jackman’s (Jean Valjean) doing jail time, in the most horrid of incarceration captured on screen, for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving child and then being subsequently chased by the unrelenting Russell Crowe (Inspector Javert) for a breach of the law that does not warrant the time and the Herculean efforts on the part of Crowe to bring Jackman to questionable justice. We then see Hathaway working in a factory setting, but bullying/jealously on the part of her fellow workers caused her sacking, which then sent her down the deep, spiraling rabbit hole of perdition manifested in hunger and prostitution.
The emaciated visual of Hathaway alone… coupled with her cropped hair and her mellifluous singing voice tugs at your heart strings when she sings the signature song, I Dream a Dream, especially knowing the circumstances that brought about her unenviable lot and the reasons she does the things she does, which are borne out of love for her daughter… but it is Seyfried’s Corsette that captures the essence of the role of the orphaned girl. It is not surprising to hear Seyfried singing well because she has done so in the past in the movie Mama Mia… belting out some of Abba’s classic tunes like she was a pro. It underscores how depressing it is to hear the likes of Britney Spears singing with much help from studio tricks… when Hathaway and Seyfried have no so called formal voice training, but I digressed. As for Seyfried’s acting, we could have glean this gift too from watching her play for the last five years or so the eldest daughter of the Mormon family on the HBO show, Big Love.
Another standout and one that should be rewarded with an Oscar nomination is the English actor, Eddie Redmayne - who knew this young man could sing. I have seen him before in various roles… but watching him stretching and performing simultaneously in Les Miz was a pleasant auditory surprise. Redmayne, who plays the character Marius Pontmercy, more than stepped up to the Thespian plate… watch him as he prepares to meet the many faces in Les Miserables and prepares a face for his given audience: one where he is the wealthy Aristocratic heir, especially in the presence of his father; two as the idealistic French Revolutionary in the presence of friends; and three, as the young man in love with Corsette… and subsequently combining all three.
There is a poignant song Redmayne does when all his friends have fallen, which captures how heroic soldiers must feel for surviving battles or those fire fighters who survived tragedies like 911- it is that ambivalence of feeling guilty for surviving. Redmayme also captures the essence of when two passions collide - that of love for woman and love for idealism like the French Revolution… this yearning to be selfish for personal love’s sake or to forego that passion for the Revolution, which will benefit society at large Redmayne secures in his Les Miserables performance.
I need to give an honorary mention to Helena-Bonham-Carter who is fiendishly hilarious as the madam for a bunch of rogues and screen wife to Sacha-Baren-Cohen… we forget that Helena-Bonham-Carter has been doing great acting for some time now, even though she is not long in the tooth… we forgive her because she has been playing the all important role of mother to her children and a wife to director Tim Burton in real life… but welcome back to stellar-character-acting Miss Carter….
I am surprised that in an era of the demonic Political Correctness that is plaguing Hollywood that they basically made a movie with such a God/Jesus theme, and moreover, left it intact without excising Victor Hugo’s obvious religious intent. The only minor complaint I have about Les Miserables is that I wished that some of the songs performed by Crowe and Jackman’s characters were overdubbed and I know the import of live singing the director, Tom Hooper, was trying to capture… but we would have forgiven him for smoothing out the kinks in the recording studio.
You may wonder why I did not concentrate on Jackman and Crowe’s characters’ respective performances; this is so because Jackman was not doing much stretching in his role as Val Jean since he is already a master on the Broadway stage and Crowe too has had several albums under his belt. Lest I forget… there is a boy, Daniel Huttlestone, in Les Miserables who performed brilliantly like a seasoned actor and like that boy, Pierce Gagnon, in the movie, Looper, I hope that both are rewarded during Oscar time… at least with nominations.