Maybe this is the first time I watch a purely musical movie like this, where every single line of the dialogues is sung by the actors. It may seem awkward if you haven't seen any like this one, but for me, "Les Misérables" just blows my mind. Phew. It is based on the similarly-titled musical play by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg which is in fact based on “Les Misérables”, a classic novel written by Victor Hugo. Actually there have been a lot of movie adaptations of “Les Misérables” previously—the last movie of “Les Misérables” was in 1998, starring Uma Thurman and Liam Neeson—but this year, Tom Hooper tried to re-visualize it in the newest “Les Misérables” in a way considered as “a world’s first”, since they live-recorded every song instead of prerecorded it.
The story of “Les Misérables” takes place in a situation of poverty, slavery, and oppression in France. In 1815, Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman), a prisoner, is released on parole by a guard named Javert (played by Russell Crowe). But, after feeling guilty for he has stolen things from a bishop (played by Colm Wilkinson) that helped him, he breaks his parole and swears he will live a new, honest life. Years gone by, Valjean now owns a factory where Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway) works. She is fired by the foreman after being accused of having an illegitimate daughter, Cosette (child played by Isabelle Allen, grown-up played by Amanda Seyfried). She then becomes a prostitute to gain money for her ill daughter, but Valjean then helps her to save her daughter from the cruel Madame Thénardiers (played by Helena Bonham Carter) and Monsieur Thénardiers (played by Sacha Baron Cohen).
At first I didn't expect that "Les Misérables" will be filled with songs all around. I mean, I know that it's a musical but I didn't expect that it's gonna be like a medley of infinite songs like this. It may sound weird because sometimes not every dialogue gets a perfect pitch and tone and it's like it's sung without any specific rhymes or melodies. But, minutes after minutes were spent and I was getting more comfortable with it. It incredibly creates a deep emotion that involves my heart and mind into the scenes. It combines the power of music performances and beautiful portraits that throws me into a mild situation of sorrow and struggle, considering the two as the main atmosphere of the movie. Very dramatic, very artistic. Perhaps it was edited in a way that makes it seems moving too fast, and there are times when the transition of the scenes was unable to relieve viewers' emotion from the previous scene, making it feels rushy (and staged, perhaps). But, as a whole, "Les Misérables" will give you a pleasurable and unforgettable experience of enjoying a story-based movie and poetical songs in a single work of art. A little bit exhausting, but it's a breakeven.
The best part of "Les Misérables", aside from its taste of musical, is the cast. It's marvelous to know that all performers sang their songs and dialogues right on the set, without any prerecords. They didn't lip-sync (the orchestral music was added in the post-production), yet with the help of earpieces as a guide they did the singing and the acting altogether right on the camera. It's undoubtedly a challenge, but the result was astonishing. That's why I said it really grabs my emotion, because they could take the meaningful lyrics of the songs into their acting. Hugh Jackman did an unexpectedly great job (he sings very well!) and his acting in “Les Misérables” could be one of his most noticeable performance of his career. But, I guess you’ll agree that the most heart-breaking, tear-jerking scene is when Anne Hathaway sings “I Dreamed A Dream”. God, it’s just an unforgettable experience that I had. Hathaway, in an interview, said that it takes 8 hours for her to get the perfect emotion in singing that song and yes, she really succeeded it. Her appearance in the beginning puts a high standard of what will happened next, and although all the singings after it were simply incredible, I could say that none could give the same perfect emotion with what Hathaway did previously. Seriously, she deserves accolades and it will unbelievably questionable if the Academy does not give her an Oscar statue next February. All the cast are actually pretty good, even the young performers like Isabelle Allen and Daniel Huttlestone (playing Gavroche) did a remarkable characterization for their own roles. Samantha Barks (playing Éponine) delivers a soulful acting in a form of sweetness and heartbreak (and she sings “On My Own” very nicely), while Eddie Redmayne (playing Marius) was incredibly powerful with his moving, inspiring song, “Empty Chair at Empty Tables”. Amanda Seyfried, well, I never seen her so charming and adorable like this, although I think there is not enough part in this movie for her giving her fullest acting. Meanwhile, both Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen did a nice and comedic supporting role, making “Les Misérables” a little bit more cheerful and, somehow, less miserable. Somehow I don’t like Russell Crowe as Javert, because maybe he’s the plainest, less expressive role in this movie, for the inadequacy of emotion in every song that he delivers.
Finally, “Les Misérables” is not the one that you can miss. It’s gonna be a fresh, brand-new experience among another so-so movies currently showing in cinemas. A taste of musical is always tricky; I heard that there were several walkouts from some viewers, but at least for me, it’s just wonderful and simply, one of the best of 2012.
▲ Emotional and soulful deliverance of every performer, great combination of song and visual
▼ Annoying fast-paced transition, a little bit exhausting
LES MISÉRABLES | COUNTRY UK YEAR 2012 RATING Rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements RUNTIME 158 min GENRE Drama, Musical, Romance CAST Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham-Carter WRITER Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil (musical), Victor Hugo (novel), William Nicholson (screenplay), Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel (original French text), James Fenton (additional text) DIRECTOR Tom Hooper IMDB RATING 8.0/10 METACRITIC 63/100 (Generally Favorable) ROTTEN TOMATOES 70% MORE INFO