Best movie I've seen so far this year.
It's a sweeping, epic, and powerful adaptation of the stage verison... and it easily ranks as one of, if not the most emotional experiences I've had at the theater. I'm not going to lie... I was in tears throughout the movie. I've seen the stage version twice, but I honestly think the film surpasses it.
Tom Hooper shot the movie in the absolute perfect way --- the singing was captured live on set and framed in continuous tight close ups. Most of the solos are presented in single takes, with hardly any cutting. The results are nothing short of breathtaking. There is no studio dubbing, autotune, awkward choreography, or otherwise any sort of artificial "stitching together" that plague virtually all other musicals. No... every second, every frame of Les Misérables feels completely genuine. Okay... to be fair, there is apparently a bit of ADR used in the opening scene because the salt water wreaked havoc on the actors' microphones... but that's it.
As for the acting/singing... all I have to say is... wow. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Samantha Barks all give some of the greatest performances I have ever, ever seen on screen.
Jackman literally is Jean Valjean, physically and thematically. He might not be as pure a singer as Colm Wilkinson (the original stage Valjean --- and the bishop in the film), but he lives and breathes the role. Well deserving of a Best Actor nomination.
Anne Hathaway’s solo, “I Dreamed a Dream”, is sung over a single four minute close-up, and she completely knocks it out of the park. It’s quite possibly the most emotionally powerful performance I’ve ever seen. Actually, I dare to say that it’s the best performance I’ve seen in any movie, period. Best Supporting Actress is a one-woman race this year.
Almost as captivating, is Samantha Barks, in her film debut as Eponine. She’s definitely a scene-stealer in the second half of the film. Her rendition of “On My Own” is easily the best I’ve seen, vocally and emotionally. I really think she deserves an Oscar nomination along with Hathaway (who is a given).
Everyone else performs admirably as well. A quick rundown:
Russell Crowe is the weakest singer in the cast, but I really dig his overall “performance” as Inspector Javert. He brings this raw power and gravitas that no one on stage has come close to matching. Just look at his eyes throughout the entire film. He’s not a bad singer, either… in fact I think his singing style perfectly fits the character.
Amanda Seyfried is a fine singer, but she’s given the least to do. I’ve always thought of the adult Cosette as a plot point, rather than an actual character. She’s just there.
Eddie Redmayne is excellent as Marius… although I think his big solo “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” lacks the emotional punch it has on stage. This isn’t his fault… it’s the absence of any visual callback to the people he’s singing to. On stage, all of his dead friends come out and silently fill the room he’s singing in. In the film, he’s literally singing to an empty room. I would have liked to see a brief flashback of his friends… or something to pack a bit more emotional punch. That’s probably my biggest complaint of the movie.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are perfect as Mr. and Mrs. Thenardiér… providing the much-needed comic relief. I’ve noticed some people complaining that they don’t do enough with their roles… but I’m actually glad they didn’t go maniacally over-the-top Tim Burton-style. That would have been a major distraction, I think.
Finally, I was also blown away by the two youngsters, Isabelle Allen (child Cosette) and Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche). Both are scene-stealers.
Finally, I really liked all of the changes Hooper made in adapting from stage to film. I was incredibly pissed when the Café “Red and Black” scene ended without transitioning into the showstopper (and my personal favorite) “Do You Hear the People Sing”… but saving it for Lamarque’s funeral was a stroke of genius. It works really well in setting up for the rebellion that begins immediately after. Yes, it comes right after the other showstopper, “One Day More”, but they’re staged differently enough so it doesn’t feel redundant at all.
So yeah... Les Mis lives up to and surpasses the hype. It's a stunningly epic movie that does complete and utter justice to the stage version, while also breaking musical and cinematic ground. It’s not like any other movie musical. It never feels staged, hokey, or gimmicky in any way. It’s just a damn good movie filled with amazing performances, production design… and of course, great, memorable music.
I don't care if you don't like musicals. I dare you to go see it and NOT like it. I dare you to go see it and NOT like it. I dare you to go see it and not be moved.
I’ve yet to see Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook (not yet playing in my area), but so far, Les Misérables is my pick for Best Movie of the Year. 10/10.