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Les is Mor – A review of Les Miserables

Updated on January 1, 2013
Anne Hathaway stars as the forlorn Fantine in the new screen adaptation of "Les Miserables", in theaters now.
Anne Hathaway stars as the forlorn Fantine in the new screen adaptation of "Les Miserables", in theaters now.

Summary: A remarkable film adaptation of a classic stage musical. Incredible attention to detail and wonderful vocal work, but with an overattention to the music and less of a focus on the coherence of the story. Still a masterpiece.

Stage musicals turned films can either be successful or total flops. Les Miserables definitely falls into the former category.

Just the way the film is made puts it into a category all it’s own. When the film was shot, the actors actually sang their parts on film rather than had the voices dubbed in afterwards. This lends an incredible realism to the strength of the picture as being almost live that no previous movie musicals have been able to capture.

The talent assembled for the cast is incredible as well. Given his penchant for appearing in action flicks, one might feel Hugh Jackman as the choice to fill the shoes of Jean Valjean is less than inspired, but Jackman pulls it off magnificently. He has a terrific singing voice, too, that has been heard before on live stage and at the Oscars. He puts his abilities to the test here and the results are fantastic.

By contrast, Russell Crowe as Valjean’s nemesis, Javert, almost feels like he’s straining to hit some of the notes. I would classify his portrayal as the real week link of the ensemble. Even so, he pulls off the balancing act of singing and acting quite well, much as the character itself undergoes a balancing act of his own between enforcing the law and overstepping his authority.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine gets the unenviable task of singing the musical’s signature melody “I Dreamed a Dream”. This can be a difficult song to sing, though, since it is fraught with raw emotion and hopeless despair. Hathaway, though, manages to carry the day with such fine form that the film bears repeat viewing just for her performance alone.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter steal a scene or two as the nefarious Thernadiers, grifters who are only out to line their own pockets at the expense of the elite.

And Amanda Seyfried, who plays Fantine’s daughter Cosette, sings her heart out in her own soliloquies and those with her suitor Marius, played by Eddie Redmayne. Together with Samantha Banks, the young trio bring the central love triangle, and thus the quintessential hope of the story, to life. There is no finer casting in any on screen adaptation for any prior musical rendition.

But the strength of the cast and the beauty of the musical portrayals also reveal the films’ major flaw. So much focus is placed on singing the musical that it occasionally feels as though the story is relegated secondary to the music. This in no way strains the enjoyment of the film, however, and I highly recommend Les Miserables with 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

Which is the best version of Les Mis that you have personally seen?

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