FILM REVIEW: Les Misérables

FILM REVIEW: Les Misérables

Mild spoilers; but if you know the stage musical then there shouldn’t be anything too surprising here.

Les-Miserables-GavrocheGavroche: the star of the show [image source].

Last year, I started a new tradition: going to the cinema on Christmas Day.  As I’ve mentioned too many times before, I’m really not a fan of Christmas, so the prospect of seeing a film gives me something to look forward to.  Em and I saw Tin Tin last year, but this time my mother decided to join me instead, and we headed to Balwyn cinema to see Les Misérables.

I’m probably one of the least qualified people to comment on this film, in that I’ve never seen the stage musical.  I haven’t read the book, either – although, I am quite familiar with the period of French history in which the story is set.  So, while I cannot really discuss how faithful the film adaptation is, I can assess its historical accuracy [although I’m not really going to do that, because I know that nobody really cares].

Les Mis employed a really interesting shooting style in which many of the songs were performed in only a few long takes, with many sequences played out so that the singer was looking right down the barrel of the camera.  It’s an engaging technique, which worked well in places.  With some of the longer musical numbers, however, I feel that they could have been broken down further, to stop the film from dragging.

Speaking of dragging: Hugh Jackman, we know that you can sing!  Why did you insist on putting on such a strained performance for Jean Valjean?!  Sure, the man has been through a lot, but that’s no excuse for poor vocals.  It makes no sense that Anna Hathaway’s voice came across as stronger than the Tony award-winning Mr Jackman’s.  As for the rest of the cast, I was for the most part very impressed.  Russell Crowe’s Javert suited him well.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provided much needed comic relief as the thieving Thénardier and his wife.  I was surprised to see Adrian Scarborough playing a small role – but I probably shouldn’t have been; that man is in everything!  But the most outstanding performance in my eyes came from the young Daniel Huttlestone, who stole the show as Gavroche.

The film itself is long – 157 minutes long, to be exact.  And not only is it long, it really feels long.  The story is complex, and there’s a lot of ground to cover, but there are times where you just want things to hurry up and get to the point.  The best example of this that I can think of is when Javert is standing on a bridge over the Seine, preparing to commit suicide.  The visuals gave his intentions away far too early in the song, and I spend the entire piece just wanting him to jump already.  This isn’t helped by the fact that many of the musical cues throughout the film are quite repetitive – many of the later songs in particular, share the tunes of earlier pieces.  Sometimes this works, but most of the time it just makes you think that even the composers couldn’t be bothered to keep things interesting.

Overall, I found Les Misérables to be a fairly enjoyable viewing experience, although the film could easily have been cut down by at least twenty minutes.  Visually, it was absolutely beautiful, and the story keeps you going, but Hugh Jackman’s vocals only get worse as the film goes on [and they weren’t very good to begin with].  I’d only recommend this film to people who love either French history, or the Les Mis stage musical.

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