My friends and I were eagerly anticipating this film so we booked our tickets in advance, expecting it to be mega busy and not wanting to be stuck on the front row again! It was a good job we did because we were in the biggest screen room I have ever seen, and it was FULL to the brim. We over heard some poor soul being turned away as they had bought tickets for the wrong day but couldn’t be seated.
I was feeling pretty smug for thinking ahead at this point, and was quite excited about the prospect of seeing this god damn film that’s been advertised at least three times per film in the cinema for the past 2 months! I haven’t read it or seen the musical before so I didn’t even know what the plot was, but I love a good musical and the hype had got to me, I was expecting a master-piece.
My first impressions weren’t great. I have to say I was disappointed with the opening scene. I wanted to be WOW’d, but I was actually left feeling a little apprehensive as Hugh Jackman’s opening line was not very strong, I immediately thought ‘uh-oh!’ and the lines by fellow slaves in the scene also sounded pretty weak against the crashing waves of water surrounding them. I am happy to say it did get better after that!
I very much enjoyed the story, Victor Hugo’s characters are great and the story behind a few individuals caught up in the revolution is fantastic. The character of Jean Valjean is very inspiring in such a time when poverty and corruption are rife. I found his journey really intriguing and I really fell for the character that Hugh Jackman brought to life on screen. He goes through so much awful sh*t in his life but never loses faith in God or humanity and is constantly a good person, despite NEVER getting anything out of it for himself. (Apart from maybe some companionship, which he would ultimately loose anyway, just a sucker for punishment this guy!) I very much enjoyed the relationship between Jean Valjean and Javert (Russell Crowe), the authority figure who chases Valjean for 17 years after he breaks parole. Javert was one that was difficult to work out, I couldn’t tell if he was just plain evil, or if he was so blinded by right and wrong that he couldn’t see the difference between morality and the law. By the end not even he could tell the difference between duty and mercy, a constant theme that ran heavily in Valjean’s journey.
“If I speak I am condemned, if I stay silent I am damned!”
Towards the end of the first half (or what I imagine it would be in the stage show) Valjean takes charge of Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) child, Cosette and they form a beautiful Father and Daughter bond. By the second half she is all grown up (Amanda Seyfried) and falls in love with a boy. Dads worse nightmare! When Valjean finds out he is distraught, but quickly looks at the positive and knows that if he marries her off she will be looked after and no longer lonely. It is a very sad moment for Valjean and I really felt his pain. He was lonely for so long until Cosette gave him some thing to live for, and he focused so much attention on her that he never found love of his own. Now the only light in his life would be taken away. Makes for some very heart wrenching musical action.
Cosette’s love interest is Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a Revolution-aire (that’s not a word?!) who has cut ties with his rich Grandfather so that he can join the cause and stick it to the man! Despite having only seen Cosette from afar, he also falls head over heels for her. I rolled my eyes at first but then you can’t beat a good love story in such a dreary tale of woe to brighten the mood! It is quite literally the only happy thing in the whole story.
There are other characters along the way of course but I will come to them when I discuss the actual performances. I will say, at the end of the film (I am not going to spoil if you don’t know the ending) you have to remember that this is a STAGE production, therefore very over the top, dramatic and a bit cheesy. This is what I thought at the time, but having reflected on the film over night, I can see that it was actually an excellent finale.
What about the singing you say?! Well, Russell Crowe is someone that has always annoyed me, and he does a pretty good job of it in this film too. He has one frown on his face the WHOLE TIME, and his singing leaves something to be desired. But he does do a good job of playing Mr. Nasty, and considering singing isn’t his main gig I will cut him some slack and say he did belt out those solo’s! He gave it everything he had and you have to admire him for that.
As did all the cast to be fair, Hugh Jackman is another where his voice maybe isn’t first class, but he gave it his all, and seemed to get better throughout. He is excellent at showing the emotion through the song (I guess that’s the acting side), but he really gets those head veins popping so you know its very intense emotionally! This isn’t sarcasm by the way he was truly brilliant and I think I am in love with Jean Valjean…
Anne Hathaway, well if you have read anything anywhere recently you will know that she pulled it off. I was still surprised though at just how good she is. Anne Hathaway has got a singing voice like a Disney Princess, really strong and beautiful. The performance was great, and yes she was ‘brave’ to chop all her hair off but I don’t think it was necessarily Oscar worthy! I found it even a little cringey at times (see hospital scene!).
Some one said to me recently, “who knew Amanda Seyfried could sing like that?!” Well everyone did, she is the lead in Mamma Mia, but yes you are right, she is pretty fantastic. I don’t pretend to know anything about singing but she has a beautiful range and can break glass with those high notes! It is a shame grown up Cosett doesn’t get more solo time. Also a stunner, and gets to keep her hair, so that’s nice!
Eddie Redmayne as Marius was fantastic in his role and made the second half for me. Although at times he did sing like Kermit the Frog, I will forgive him, for his sheer passion alone! After the Revolution battle in Paris he returns to the scene and has an almighty ‘why me’ sing off and it really is breath taking. His fellow brethren in the Revolution may have helped his role though, as supporting cast they were all excellent fresh talents who I was really routing for during the battle.
Some of the other characters that really caught my attention were the little boy Gavroche, played by Daniel Huttlestone, and Eponine, played by Samantha Barks. Gavroche looks about 10 years old and fights along side the big boys in the revolution. Daniel Huttlestone has so much charisma for a boy that age, and brought something extra to the screen, I remember thinking “you’re my favorite!” Eponine is Marius’s friend who is secretly (but not so secretly) in love with him. Samantha Barks has a fantastic voice (and a freakishly skinny waist) and owned the ‘stage’ when she was in shot. Her solo is gorgeous and she is the only one in the film that brought a tear to my eye.
People I did not like however were Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, aka. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. I understand in any play there is usually some light comic relief, especially in a story so dark as this, but for me these two just didn’t fit. They made an odd coupling, and Baron Cohen kept deviating between cockney and eastern european. Helena Bonham Carter was her usual self, I don’t enjoy her singing (I turned Sweeney Todd off because it offended me), so suffice to say I wasn’t going to enjoy her performance in this. Yes I laughed, but begrudgingly. They were bright and loud and annoying and I think the characters should have been portrayed in a darker, more sinister light.
I have rambled… but this film was THREE HOURS long, well it felt like 3 hours, it felt like longer! I was getting bored by the end of the first half, and had forgotten that Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne were supposed to be in it. I was hoping that it was coming to end, and then the whole Revolution story line kicked in and I thought, ‘Oh nooo’! BUT having said that, the second half was visually stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the harmonies with three or four voices at once. Also the big group performances where all the voices come together were very powerful, and the most emotional moments for me (goose bumps!). Upon reflection Les Miserables was very well acted and beautifully executed. But it lacked something for me, as you can tell from this post I am still in two minds as to whether it was utterly fantastic, or a little dull… Thoughts?